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What to do after a car accident

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A car accident can be shocking and highly stressful but it's important you stay calm.

The best way to do this is to prepare yourself should you, unfortunately, be involved in a road accident. 

If you have a car crash or even a minor bump or scrape, following these steps could keep you and other road users safe. They should also help you make a car insurance claim for any damage. 

Person reporting a car accident

Here's what you should do if you’re involved in a road traffic accident:

Check for injuries

Check yourself before checking any passengers or third parties. Make sure it's safe to leave the car before you do, though. It's worth noting if everyone involved appears unharmed.

Call 999 if necessary

You should call 999 if you need immediate help. For example:

  • Someone is injured
  • There's debris or vehicles blocking the road
  • The other person drives away and you don't have their details
  • You suspect they crashed into you deliberately - potentially for a crash-for-cash scam to make a fraudulent insurance claim
  • The other driver doesn't have a valid driving licence
  • The other person is driving without insurance
  • The other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • The other driver or someone at the scene is being aggressive or threatening

If you don't need immediate help, call 101 instead.

Get everyone to safety

Unless they're injured and unable to be moved, try to move all passengers away from the car and somewhere safe.

Exchange details with the other person

You should give your insurance details to the other driver, and they should give you theirs. Even if neither of you want to make a claim, it's important to have all the information. This includes:

  • Car insurance policy numbers
  • Registration numbers of the cars involved
  • Drivers' names, addresses and phone numbers
  • The details of the registered keeper, if they differ from the driver

Make note of the conditions at the time

Take photos and videos as well as written notes. This includes:

  • The time and date of the accident
  • The weather and traffic conditions
  • The quality of the road
  • 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 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
  • Any potential dash cam footage that could be used as evidence

Don't apologise

Don't say "I'm sorry", even in passing. This could be argued by the other party as an admission of fault. Although you’re not legally accepting responsibility by apologising, the other party could try to use it against you at a later date. This is something that the insurance companies figure out between them.

Report the accident to your insurer

Even if you don't want to make a claim, you should still let your insurer know that you've been in an accident.

It’s 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.

If you're unable to speak to the driver of the other vehicle, you need to stop, leave your details and report it to the police.

Driving off after an accident counts as a hit and run accident and could lead to a fine, points on your licence or a driving ban.

Also, if you don’t report the accident, someone could claim against you later.

Let's say you bumped into someone’s parked car and drove off. You may have been caught on CCTV or someone might have seen you and remembered your reg plate.

You should report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible - ideally within 24 hours of the accident.

Most insurers have a limit on the time you have to report an accident. Check the details of your policy to find out exactly what this is.

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

Yes - you should report the accident to your insurer 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.

And, regardless of whether you claim, your insurer needs to reassess your 'risk' on the policy. This is likely to see your car insurance costs go up next year.

You should report the accident to the police if:

  • Anyone is injured
  • You didn’t exchange details at the scene
  • You believe a crime has been committed

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

If you want to claim for personal injury, you usually have up to 3 years to make a car insurance claim. This depends on the insurer, though, so check your policy wording.

In general, the sooner you make a car insurance claim, the better. This lets your insurer investigate the accident while the relevant facts are still fresh. This should help speed up the claims process.

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