If you are involved in a car accident, there are some steps you are legally required to take and others that will enable you to make the situation as safe as possible as quickly as possible. If you are likely to be involved in an insurance claim, you will also need to gather some key information about the circumstances of the accident
When an accident occurs, there are a few simple steps you should take to comply with the law and make it easier to deal with any claim. If you don’t follow them it could prejudice you when you make an insurance claim – particularly if it is a ‘no-fault’ claim.
1. You are legally required to stop after a road traffic accident, even if no other vehicle was involved, if:
2. You should do what you can to ensure that anyone who has been injured gets medical treatment, and that the accident site is made safe (eg warning other motorists, making sure that people are moved away - if their medical condition allows - from any hazardous substances such as leaking fuel). If necessary, dial 999.
3. You must stay with your vehicle long enough to provide your name and address, the name and address of the vehicle’s owner (if different) and the registration number to anyone involved in the accident. This could be an injured person, the owner of property damaged by, or an animal injured in, the accident, a police officer or a witness to the accident.
4. If anyone has been injured, you must produce your insurance certificate. If you cannot do so at the time, you must notify the police (in person rather than by phone, and within 24 hours) and take the certificate to the police station (within seven days).
Even if no one has been injured, you may need to provide your insurance details to anyone who wants to make a claim against you for damage to property.
5. You must report the accident to the police if you cannot exchange details with the other party involved, and/or provide your insurance certificate, at the time of the accident. You should also report the accident if you believe an offence has been committed. You must do this as soon as possible, within 24 hours after the accident. However, if you can produce your insurance at the time, and you have also given all the information required, there is no need to involve the police.
Ask any other drivers involved for their details, and note the make, model and colour of their vehicles as well as the registration numbers.
6. Make sure that you make your own notes of what happened. If you can, take photographs that show what happened too – for example, showing the road layout, the position and angle of your vehicle and any other vehicles involved, where any pedestrians or animals were when they were injured, any area of poor visibility, or any hazards, that may have contributed to the accident, etc. If you cannot do that, try to sketch out a rough map showing these things.
7. Importantly, make sure you have the names and contact details of any witnesses. If possible, also make a note and take photos of where they were when the accident occurred. Ask them (including passengers in your own vehicle) to make a written record of what they saw happen.
8. Note down any subsequent medical treatment or expenses you incur as a result of the accident.
9. Inform your insurance company as soon as possible. If you don’t, it could invalidate your insurance cover, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
Responsibility for an accident depends on the particular circumstances.
Depending on the circumstances, you may want to make a claim through your insurance company or using your own solicitor.
Broadly speaking, a claim for personal injury or damage to property aims to put you in the same position as if the accident had not happened. A claim may include:
If you have fully comprehensive insurance, it may be easiest to allow your insurance company to handle any claim for damage to property. However, you may lose your no-claims bonus if the insurance company cannot recover its costs from the other party’s insurer.
You can pursue a claim through the courts. You have to meet your own legal costs for claims in the small claims court, but may be able to recover some costs in larger disputes using the fast track or multi-track.
If the other driver is uninsured or refuses to provide insurance details, you (or your solicitor) can make a claim through the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB). MIB is the official body set up to compensate people who have a court judgement against an uninsured motorist, or who have been the victims of unidentified "hit and run" motorists, who would not otherwise receive compensation. You can trace the registered owner through the DVLA, and must report the incident to the police (as the other driver is committing an offence).
Claims for personal injury can be complex and involve significant sums. Take independent legal advice.