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When should you report a car accident?

If you have a car crash, or even a minor bump or scrape, these steps should help you to make a car insurance claim. 

Person reporting a car accident


What do I do if I have a car crash?

If you’re in a road traffic accident, remember the following:

  • Stop. Pull over, turn off the engine and turn on your hazard lights. This is the red triangle in the middle of the dashboard.
  • Check for any injuries to yourself or any passengers. Make sure it’s safe to leave the car before doing so.
  • Check for any injuries to anyone else involved. Make a note of these. You should also make a note even if everyone’s OK.
  • Dial 999 if anyone is injured or the road is blocked. You should also call 999 if you believe that the crash was deliberate, or if you think drugs or alcohol were involved.
  • Move all passengers away from the car, unless they are injured and unable to be moved.
  • Exchange details with anyone else involved. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, and vehicle registrations.
  • Don’t say sorry. You shouldn’t admit fault if you’re not sure what happened. Although you’re not legally accepting responsibility by apologising, the other party could try to use it against you at a later date.
  • Concentrate on making sure you and your passengers are safe, calling the authorities if needed, and exchanging details.

Why do I have to report a car accident? 

If you don’t report an accident, someone could claim against you later.

For example, say you bumped into someone’s parked car and drove off. At the time there might not be anyone around, but you may have been caught on CCTV or someone might have seen you.

It’s also a legal requirement to stop after an accident, no matter how minor it is. You can find more information on this in the Road Traffic Act.

Driving off after something like this can have far greater repercussions than if you stop, leave your details and report it to the police.

So if you haven’t spoken to the driver of the vehicle, you need to leave your details and report it to the police.

If you don’t, you could face a fine, points on your licence or a driving ban.


Do you have to report a minor accident to the police?

You’ll need to report an accident to the police by dialling 101 – the police non-emergency number – within 24 hours. 

As mentioned above, if you cause any damage to someone’s vehicle or property, no matter how minor, you should stop.

If the other person is at the scene, give your name, address and vehicle registration. 

You don’t need to leave your insurance details unless someone is injured, but it can speed up the claims process if you do. 

If you didn’t exchange details at the scene, you should report the accident to the police within 24 hours.

If you hit a parked car or someone’s property and you can’t locate the owner, you should leave a note with your details.


Should I call 999 when reporting a car accident?

If there’s an injury or the road’s blocked, call 999 straight away. 

Also, call the police on 999 if the other road user drives away or you suspect they crashed into you deliberately.

Crash-for-cash scams are still happening across the UK, with criminals deliberately crashing their cars for an insurance pay-out.

If you think the other driver doesn’t have insurance, or they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you should also call 999. 


What details should I provide if I’ve had a car accident?

If anyone involved in the accident is injured, you must give your insurance details, including your name, address and the vehicle’s registration. You must show them your insurance certificate if they ask for it.

Even if no one is injured you could exchange insurance details as it might help to speed up the claims process. 

It’s worth getting their details, too, as you may have an injury that you weren’t aware of at the time of the crash.

If you’re not the vehicle’s owner, you should give the car owner’s details. 


Do I need to report the accident to my car insurance company?

You should report the accident to your insurance provider even if you’re not planning to make a car insurance claim.

This is because the other driver might decide to make a claim without you knowing. 

You should call them as soon after the accident as possible. 

They’ll likely ask for:

  • The registration numbers of the cars involved.
  • The other driver’s name, address and phone number.
  • The other driver’s insurance details, if you have them.
  • You could also mention if you have any dash cam footage of the accident at this point too.

How long do I have to report a car accident to my insurance company? 

It’s advised that you report any kind of car accident to your insurer as soon as possible. However, calling the police should always be the priority and making sure you, and anyone else involved, is safe.

Most insurers have a limit on the time you have to report an accident - so check the details of your insurer to find out what this is. It is usually within 24 hours of the accident occurring.


How long after a car accident can you claim on insurance?

You usually have up to three years to make a car insurance claim, although this depends on the insurer. It can be a lot shorter so always check your policy details, or ask your insurer if you are not sure.

The sooner you make a claim, the sooner it should be paid - if there is a sum of money to be paid out. If the claim is complicated it can often take a while to sort out and therefore there’s no point in delaying making a claim.


Will reporting an accident increase my car insurance cost?

Different factors affect the cost of car insurance including your age, car, and driving experience

If you were deemed to be at fault in the accident, you might see your car insurance costs rise. This is because insurers could see you as a risky driver.

But sometimes even if an accident isn’t your fault, you might see your premiums rise.

You shouldn’t let a potential rise in premiums stop you from reporting an accident, though.

If you don’t tell your insurer about one but they find out later, it could invalidate your insurance – and you might even find it difficult to get another policy.

Remember, even if you don’t make a claim, an accident needs to be disclosed when you buy insurance in the future. 

Find more information on insurance claims


Can I report a car accident online? 

Some police forces allow you to report car accidents online. For example, the Metropolitan Police have a ‘report a road traffic incident’ tool.

You can check your local force’s website to see if they offer this. 

But if it’s an emergency – for example, if someone is injured or a car is blocking the road – you should always call 999. 


Should I take details at the scene of the car accident?

It’s important to take notes at the time of the accident. The more details you can provide, the better. This helps insurance companies and the police when it comes to working out who’s liable.

You could make a note of the following: 

  • The weather and traffic conditions.
  • Any road markings or signs.
  • What happened in the accident – you could even include sketches.
  • The vehicle type, colour, make, model and registration.
  • An estimate of the speed the other vehicle was travelling at and in what direction.
  • The other car’s condition.
  • The number of passengers in the other vehicle.
  • Details about the driver, such as contact information and a description.
  • Any witnesses or CCTV cameras.
  • Any damage to vehicles or property, as well as any injuries.

How to pay for a car accident without involving insurance?

You may choose not to make an insurance claim. This could be because you want to cover the costs of a repair yourself, you want to protect your no claims discount (NCD), or you want to avoid your premiums going up.

However, even if you don’t make a claim you should still report the accident to your insurer. 


Will there be a police prosecution after a car accident?

This depends on the accident and how serious it was. In most scenarios, if there was a serious accident and especially if people have been hurt, there is usually a police prosecution afterwards. 

However, if the accident has just resulted in minor damage to you or someone else’s vehicle, this is usually handled by your insurance company.


Reporting a car accident: Key points

Keep this checklist handy to refer to if you’re in an accident.

  • If in doubt, report the accident – both to the police and to your insurer.
  • Take as many details from the other parties as possible, any notes you take at the time can be useful should there be any legal or insurance implications further down the line.
  • Note down details of any other drivers, you’ll need to give these to your insurer.
  • Report the incident to your insurer within 24 hours.
  • If you need to make an insurance claim, gather all of the details together and begin the claim as soon as possible.