What to do if you have a car accident

It’s not something we like to think about, but car accidents happen – and it’s important you know what to do if you’re caught up in a crash. Here, are the steps you need to take to stop a bad situation from getting worse.

Immediately after a car accident

However minor you think a car accident is, you must stop. In fact, failing to do so is an offence under the Road Traffic Act. You should make sure your car’s engine is switched off, and then turn your hazard lights on to alert other road users to your presence.

Take a look around and if anyone has been injured in the car accident, you should call the police (and an ambulance, if necessary) as soon as possible. The police should also be called if the car accident is blocking the road.

Giving details after a car accident

When you're involved in a car accident, you’re obliged to give your name and address to anyone else involved. However, you should avoid saying sorry or accepting blame for the accident until you know precisely what happened, as it could count against you later on.

You should stop and give your details if you crash into something on or near the road, even if there aren't any other people involved. If you hit a parked car, for example, you should leave your details on the windscreen.

Car accidents should be reported to the police within 24 hours. Failure to do so could result in a fine, penalty points or even disqualification.

Collecting details after a car accident

If possible, you should collect the following information from any drivers, passengers and witnesses:

Ask the other drivers involved for their Car Insurance details, and try to establish whether they are the registered keeper of their vehicle. If they aren’t, find out who is and make a note of their name and address.

If you crash into a vehicle that’s used for work, such as a delivery van, make sure you take down the details of the company concerned.

NB: Call 999 straight away if someone leaves the scene of the car accident without giving their details.

Other information to collect from the car accident

Here are some other important details you should try to collect at the scene of the car accident:
  • the registration numbers of all vehicles involved, plus a note of each vehicle’s colour, make and model
  • the time and date of the crash
  • a sketch showing the positions of vehicles involved
  • a description of the weather conditions, plus anything unusual you notice about the road quality or lighting
  • the names of any witnesses or police officers at the scene
  • a list of damage to vehicles, and a description of any injuries sustained by pedestrians, drivers and passengers.

You may find it useful to take photos of the car accident for use as evidence. Some drivers carry disposable cameras for this purpose, but most modern mobile telephones will take good enough shots to help you remember important details.

Making an insurance claim after a car accident

Make sure you tell your insurer about the car accident as soon as you can. Failure to do so within the time period set out in your policy may invalidate your cover – leaving you with a big bill to pay. Always inform your car insurance company about the accident – even if you don’t want to make a claim.

You should give your insurance firm as much information about the car accident as you can, as it will help them process your claim.

More advice

For more advice, check out the Traffic Accident Advice website.