What to do if you have a car accident

Last updated April 30, 2021

We all hope that it will never happen, but in the eventuality that you’re in a car accident, you should be completely prepared with as much knowledge about how to deal with the situation. If you’re prepared, you’ll be better placed to take the correct steps in the aftermath of an accident to stop the situation from escalating and ensure that any subsequent car insurance claims are unaffected.

According to the road safety charity, Brake, there were 160,597 casualties of all severities in road traffic crashes in 2018. While your first step should always be reducing the chance of being in an accident by driving in accordance with the law and limiting distractions, here’s what to do if you have a car accident.

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What to do in a car accident

  • Stay calm

    It might seem easier said than done, but staying calm during and after an incident can prevent a situation from escalating between you and the other driver and it can also help to stop you from panicking and making poor or rash decisions.

    Try to remember to stay calm if you’re involved in an incident and focus on remembering the steps you should take to make the situation as manageable as possible.

  • Stop the car

    Failing to stop the car after an accident is an offence under the Road Traffic Act section 170. After being involved in a road traffic incident, you should immediately switch off your vehicle’s engine and turn on your hazard lights.

    After that’s done, safely check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If everybody is OK, the next step is to exit the car and move to a safe place. What constitutes a safe place will depend on where you were involved in an incident – it might be a hard shoulder, embankment or just the pavement nearby.

  • Alert the authorities (if required)

    If you have been involved in a serious accident with injuries you should call a medical professional by dialling 111 in a non-emergency or 999 in an emergency. Furthermore, if any vehicle involved in an accident is impeding the flow of traffic, you should ring 999 to alert the authorities as they may need to close the road whilst debris are removed.

  • Swap details

    Finally, for the purposes of insurance and liability, if any other drivers were involved in the incident, make sure to swap details with them. Things to ask for include their:

    • Name and/or name of the registered vehicle keeper
    • Address
    • Telephone number
    • Insurance company
    • Insurance number
    • Registration plate and car make and model
    • Driving licence number

    You should also take photographs of both cars and any injuries that you may have sustained during the accident, both of which might come in useful if you need to submit a claim on your car insurance. If someone leaves the scene of the crash without giving their details, call 999 immediately.

    Other information to note down include the time and date of the crash, a description of the weather, anything unusual about the road quality or lighting, a list of damage to vehicles and a description of any injuries sustained by pedestrians, drivers or passengers.

Car accident claims

Later, you’ll need to inform your insurer of the accident and if your car is sufficiently damaged and you have the right level of insurance coverage, you can begin the process of making a claim. Even if you decide to not make a claim, you should report the accident to your car insurance company anyway.

Regardless of whether it feels like an emergency or not, tell your insurer about the accident as soon as you can. Insurers often have a set time period set out in their policies and if you fail to report an incident within that given time period, you can invalidate your cover.

You should double check the wording of your insurance policy, as this deadline can vary depending on the insurer.