What To Do In A Car Accident

If you’re ever involved in a car accident, there are three things you should do straight away. These are:

  1. Stop your car and turn on your hazard lights.
  2. Check for injuries to yourself and other passengers.
  3. Take photographs of the scene.

Once you’ve done these essentials and made sure you, your passengers and other road users are safe, you can then take care of the other formalities.

Read on for our tips on what to do after an accident and common mistakes you should avoid.

The first 3 things to do after a car accident

Should you be involved in a car accident, there are three things you should do straight away before any swapping of driver information and insurance details.

Rather than getting into a flustered frenzy at what’s just happened, which is understandable but will cause more problems further down the line, here’s what you should do first. 

1. Stopping your car and turning on your hazard lights

hazard lights on

It doesn’t matter if an accident is just a minor coming together. The extent of the damage caused can only be known until you can see what’s happened and speak with everyone involved.

For this reason, you should first stop the car and turn on your hazard lights. This way, other road users are aware that you’ve come to a standstill and can go around you safely.

Remember: Make sure you turn the engine off too, as you may be at the scene of the accident for a while depending on how serious it is.

2. Checking for injuries to yourself and passengers

Once you’ve stopped the car and signalled this to others around you, it’s then crucial to check whether you, your passengers or any other drivers, passengers, pedestrians or animals have sustained serious injuries that need urgent medical attention. If so, the first thing to do is to call an ambulance.

If nobody is seriously injured, you should then get out of the car, when it’s safe to do so, and process the situation*.

You can do this taking these three steps:

  1. Look to see if other cars were involved and what extent (if any) the damage is to the vehicles, plus any injuries to drivers/passengers.
  2. Check the surrounding area – has any damage been done to other property nearby such as garden fences, parked cars or street furniture such as lampposts? Have any pedestrians been injured from a vehicle leaving the road?
  3. Take the time to inspect your own car – take a good look around it to see if there’s any damage to the body, lights, tyres, windows etc.

*It’s important that you take the time to do this before anything else as it will help you when it comes to recalling what happened later, should you need to for insurance claim reasons. Or for judicial proceedings should the incident need to go to court.

3. Photographing the scene

Taking pictures** of the scene of an accident once it’s safe and any medical needs have been met will allow you to get important evidence for any potential disputes over compensation.

**Make sure that you capture different angles while taking pictures to accurately show any damage/injuries at the point of impact. This way, it can’t be claimed that a car accident was worse than it actually was further down the line.

Here’s what you should take photographs of before leaving the scene of an accident.

  • Wide angle showing the whole scene.
  • Any damage to your vehicle.
  • Any injuries sustained by all who were in your car.
  • Any damage to other vehicles involved.

Common mistakes to avoid following an accident

As well as knowing what you should do after being involved in a car accident, it’s just as important to know what not to do.

There are three common mistakes you should remember not to do after a collision.

  1. Don’t lose your temper and get into an argument with another driver, passenger or pedestrian – it will only exacerbate the situation and you may even forget to get important information such as insurance details of those involved, witness contact information and pictures of what happened.
  2. Don’t admit guilt – even if you think you’re at fault, you should avoid saying you’re sorry as this indicates that you’re to blame, potentially making it difficult for you to get compensation later on down the line.
  3. Don’t flee the scene of an accident as this is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 – you can be given a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment if any damage or injury is involved.

Do I need to call the police after an accident?

police attending car accident

It’s advised that you contact the police following a car accident, but how you go about it depends on how severe it is.

Reporting a car accident police on 999

Only contact police 999 if a major collision is blocking the road, another driver involved leaves without exchanging information, or if you think the other driver(s) is under influence of drugs/alcohol.

Finally, if you think someone deliberately caused the accident (‘crash for cash’) or if a driver involved doesn’t have insurance, this also warrants contacting the police on 999.

Remember: If the police don’t make it to the scene of a serious accident, go to the police station within 24 hours to report it. Not doing so can lead to a fine of up to £5,000, penalty points or potentially disqualification. For more serious cases this could mean a six-month prison sentence.

 Reporting a car accident to police on 101

If an accident isn’t major and there isn’t any criminal/fraudulent activity going on, then you should contact the police on the 101 number for a non-emergency response.

The Road Traffic Act says that you must do this within 24 hours if damage has been caused to someone else’s property or a parked car, even if no-one else was involved. Also, in this instance you should leave your details for the owner – such as leaving a note on the windscreen of their car, for example.

How to exchange information and record details of an accident

car accident

There are formalities involved following a car accident which involve you exchanging insurance information and noting down certain details about the incident once it’s safe to do so.

You can record this information either in a physical notepad or somewhere you know that they will be safe, such as your phone’s notes.

What information/details do I need?

  • Date and time of the crash.
  • Conditions (lighting, weather, road surface etc.)
  • Anything unusual/out of the ordinary you may have noticed in build-up, during or afterwards.
  • Photographs – get plenty of angles and make sure it’s shown where the cars were positioned upon impact (this can help you remember important details when going through the process of claiming on insurance or attending court.)
  • Make, model and registration of other cars involved and detailed notes on the damage caused.
  • Notes of injuries caused to drivers and passengers of all vehicles.
  • Name and contact of any witnesses who saw the accident.
  • Insurance details (give and receive) including the policy number.
  • Vehicle owner details – you should find out who the registered owner is if it isn’t the person driving at the time and make a note of their name and contact information.

Contacting your insurance company after an accident

Even if you don’t intend to make a claim after being involved in an accident, you should contact your insurance provider.

Provide as much detail as you can (using the points above will be more than enough information) and make sure you check your policy for any time periods specifying when this needs to be done by.

Once you’ve informed them (which you should do as soon as possible), they will take over and let you know what to do – they’ll get in touch with insurers of other drivers involved to resolve any claims

Not doing so could lead to cancellation of your policy and they then may refuse to cover you in the future.

Do I need to give information if I’m involved in a car accident?

The Road Traffic Act says it’s illegal to withhold information when another driver has reasonable grounds for requiring it. For example, if personal injury or damage to property has happened, or an animal is killed/injured.

This law applies to you and all other drivers, so make sure you have this information to hand in your car or on your person.

Want to know more about road safety beyond car accidents? Then head over to our handy guides page for more information that will keep you safe while behind the wheel.

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