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What to do if you have a car accident

  • 3, Aug 2020
  • Read time: 8 mins
Nobody plans for an accident, but it's definitely better to be prepared. Here's a simple guide to what you should do at the roadside, and what you'll need to do to make a claim.
Car on tow.

Stop your car

As soon as it is safe to do so, stop the vehicle, turn on your hazard lights and switch off your engine. Traffic permitting, move to a safe distance.

This is vitally important because leaving the scene of an accident carries a maximum fine of £5,000, as well as up to 6 months’ imprisonment. You might also incur 5 to 10 points on your licence and a discretionary disqualification, depending on the circumstances.

Check for danger

Try to move your car away from moving traffic or busy roads. If the damage to your car makes this impossible, you should try to make the scene of the accident as safe as possible. Do this by turning off the engine and switching on your hazard lights.

Check yourself, the other driver and any passengers for injuries. Often shock and adrenaline can delay your pain responses, so quickly look over yourself for any visible signs of injury. Then repeat the process with the other driver involved in the accident. Be sure to check that the road is clear before leaving your vehicle and always move to a safer place.

Call the emergency services, if necessary

If no-one from each vehicle is injured and the traffic isn't being stopped or hindered by the accident, you may not need to call the police or ambulance service immediately. However, if someone looks like they've been hurt, however minor and regardless of fault, call an ambulance to the scene.

The police will also come to any reported road traffic accident if an ambulance has been called, but you should call them separately if the other driver involved in the accident is uncooperative, aggressive or fails to stop. You're obliged to report a car accident or crash within 24 hours to your insurance company by law, regardless of who was at fault.

You will need to inform the police within 24 hours if there have been any personal injuries. So it’s important to make sure you don't wait too long before making contact.

Failing to inform the police carries the same penalties as failing to stop after an accident.

Exchange your details and information

Exchanging insurance information and personal details with the other party involved in the accident is another legal requirement. Not only is it an offence to not swap personal details in the event of an accident, but you'll need them to make a claim on your insurance.

The details you should exchange include:

  • Your full name
  • Your address
  • Your phone number
  • Your insurance details - the insurance company name and policy number is ideal
  • The vehicle’s make, model, colour and registration number
  • Don’t apologise or admit fault.

Other information to collect

The more information you collect about the accident the easier the claim process may be. Getting a witness statement can be very helpful to corroborate your story of events and prevent a fraudulent claim.

As soon as it is safe to do so and before calling your insurer; it would be useful to write an account of what happened before, during and after the incident. Include the date and time of the accident, the driving conditions, for example, was it wet or icy. Taking photographs can be very useful too; your insurer will ask and will help explain the damage visually.

Other details to include are:

  • The details of the car’s registered owner, if different from the driver involved in the accident
  • Take pictures if safe of any damage done to the vehicles and situational pictures to support your case if it goes to court
  • Ask for witnesses and passengers details. They are not obliged by law to give you their details.
  • The road quality, were you on an A road, or country lane. Include if the road surface had pole holes, if relevant.

Making a claim

Firstly don’t worry, accidents happen and that’s why you buy insurance. We are here to help you get back on the road.

Our best advice is, always be honest, and follow these steps.

Contact us

Please contact us as soon as possible if you have been involved in an accident. The call will take about 15-20 minutes and we will ask you the following:

  • Tell us what happened
  • The driver’s details
  • Damage to vehicles and/or property
  • Any witnesses
  • If the Police or Emergency services were involved.

During the call, we will run through the claim process and any next steps.

After the call, we will send you a letter to explain the process including information about your excess.

If you can't drive your car

Your car will be taken away to an approved repairer to have its damage assessed. A hire car will be loaned to you until yours is repaired if you have a courtesy car option as standard on your comprehensive car policy.

If your car is written off

Your insurer will assess whether it’s cost-effective to repair your vehicle. If this is not the case, then you’ll be sent a valuation of your car at the time of the accident. You can dispute the valuation by providing documented evidence.

How long can a car insurance claim take?

This will depend on the claim. For a write-off, we can settle within a few hours. Rest assured, we will work really hard to settle your claim as quickly as possible, but some more complex claims may take longer.

Will a claim affect my car insurance?

Most claims may have some impact on any future renewal. We look at the type of claim, if your No Claim Bonus was protected. If your No Claim Bonus was not protected, and you have a fault claim, your No Claim Bonus may reduce, which also will impact your renewal premium

Claims may also be settled as a split fault. A split fault means you will share the claim if both parties involved are at fault. Also, if it cannot be proven where the fault lay, then both drivers may share the claim as a split fault.

You will hold a pending claim against your policy until resolved.

If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver and you have our comprehensive car insurance with uninsured driver promise, your no claim bonus will not be affected. It's also worth noting that certain other claims don’t impact your no claim bonus e.g. windscreen cracks, breakdowns, wrong-fuelling issues and vandalism claims.

Why might my car insurance claim be rejected?

We want to help you get back on the road as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes we are unable to settle a claim because you are not covered on your insurance, for example, you have a third party, fire and theft policy and your vehicle is damaged. Always read your policy wording and Schedule of Insurance to make sure you have the right cover.

Another reason why we cannot settle a claim is the information you have given us is incorrect or not up to date, for example, if your car has been modified. This will invalidate your car insurance and affects a claim being paid.

We do not settle claims for mechanical faults, such as a broken clutch.

Not being honest when making a claim could affect your claim too. For information on how to make a car insurance claim containing important contact details, visit our making a claim page.

In the meantime, drive safely in the knowledge that we're ready to help when you need us.

Make a car insurance claim

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