We all hope to avoid them but accidents, as they say, do happen. If you had a car crash, would you know what steps to take in the immediate aftermath? What about later on? We all like to think we would have the presence of mind to act, but keeping a cool head in an emergency situation is easier said than done. You might be dealing with injuries, high emotions and a scene of confusion. That is why it is a good idea to think ahead and have a plan in case the worst should happen.
What to do immediately after a car accident
- Stop and stay at the scene
Sounds obvious, right? But sometimes drivers think a prang is so minor that it is not worth stopping for. The fact is, the law says you must stop, no matter how insignificant you think the accident is. Not to do so is an offence under the Road Traffic Act and you could end up being prosecuted for failing to stop. Pull over as safely as you can, turn off your engine and switch on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
- Assess the situation
If you are unhurt, take a look around and check to see whether anyone else has been injured. Try not to panic. You might be suffering from shock, so take some slow, deep breaths and take a few moments to think before you act.
- When to call the emergency services
If anyone – including you – is hurt, you should immediately call the police and ambulance services. Dial 999 or 101. You should also call the police if anyone tries to leave the scene of the accident or if any of the vehicles involved are blocking the road, or posing a hazard to other drivers (for example on a blind bend).
- Stay calm
It is important to stay calm and neutral, even in the face of another driver who may be angry and wanting to place the blame on you. Don’t be bullied into admitting responsibility for the accident, even if you think it is your fault – it is up to the police and insurance companies to deal with the question of liability.
- Give your details
By law, you must give your name and address to anyone else who was involved in the accident. Give your registration number and details of the registered keeper of the vehicle you were driving if that is not you. It is a good idea to give a telephone contact number too. If the police are called, you will need to show your insurance documents or take them to a police station within a week if you do not have them with you.
If you have had an accident that did not involve another vehicle or person, but involved damage to property, you should still leave your details. If you hit a stationary vehicle and the owner is not nearby, leave a note of your details. You must also report the accident to the police if they were not called to the scene (see Next steps below).
- Collect others’ details
You also need to make sure you collect the contact details – name, address and telephone numbers – for the other driver(s) and passengers involved in the accident. Check that the driver is the registered keeper of the vehicle and, if not, ask for their details too. If possible, get insurance company details too.
Make sure you make a note of the other driver’s registration number just in case they have given you false information. If the other driver refuses to give the required information, call the police immediately.
- Record evidence
If you have enough presence of mind at the time, it is a good idea to make a quick note of what happened and, if possible, a sketch of the scene, showing position of vehicles etc. It is surprising how quickly you can forget details after the event, particularly if you were shocked at the time. Asking for any independent witnesses’ contact details can also be helpful for future insurance claims.
If you hit a dog or a farm animal you must, by law, inform the police. This does not apply to cats but you should always find the owner if you can or take the animal to a vet.
Once you are safely home, you need to take the next steps to ensure the accident is followed up and dealt with correctly.
- Report to police
You need to report any accident to the police within 24 hours, if they were not called to the scene. If you fail to do so, you can be fined, given points or even disqualified from driving. Take along your insurance documentation.
- Arrange vehicle recovery
Use your breakdown cover or contact a local recovery service if your car had to be left at the scene of the crash. Arrange for the vehicle to be taken to a garage if necessary – check with your insurer, as they may suggest you use one of their recommended repairers.
- Insurance claims
Contact your insurer as soon after the accident as you can. Most policies will have a time period in which to report an incident – these can vary widely from as little as two days to as long as a fortnight, so make sure you check. Failure to comply can mean you invalidate your cover and you could end up having to pay a big repair bill.
Give your insurance company as much information as possible about the accident and pass on the details of the other people involved – your insurer will contact their insurer(s) direct.
Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working together with technology-led finance broker Solution Loans; a company helping clients to find their most suitable type of credit for over a decade.