What to do in a car accident

Every year tens of thousands of people are affected by road traffic accidents. While being involved in a car crash or collision is always stressful, you’ll have to keep a clear head and remember what steps to take in the immediate aftermath, as failing to do so could prove very costly.

These are the most important things to do if you’re involved in a car accident. We've compiled a handy list to keep you safe and help you make an insurance claim so that it can be resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.

1. Stop

Whenever it is safe to do so, stop and turn off your engine.

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, 5 to 10 points on your licence and even a discretionary disqualification depending on the circumstances.

If you can't move your car, you should try to make the scene of the accident as safe as possible by turning off your engines, switching on your hazard lights and getting out of your vehicles and move to a safe place.

2. Stay Calm

Keeping a level head can help defuse charged situations. Should you start to feel your temperature rising, take deep breaths to help cool that hot head.

Anger is an understandable emotion but don't let it get the better of you - you may do something which you might regret later.

3. Call the emergency services if necessary

If no one's hurt 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, call an ambulance.

The police will also come to any reported road traffic accident if an ambulance has been called but you should call them separately if anyone driving a vehicle involved in the accident is uncooperative, aggressive or fails to stop.

You're obliged to report a traffic accident within 24 hours by law, regardless of who was at fault. So make sure you don't wait too long before contacting them.

The consequences for failing to do so can be great: not informing the police carries the same penalties as failing to stop after an accident.

4. Exchange details

You must swap your personal details to whomever's involved in the accident as it's another legal requirement.

The details you should give (and receive) include:

  • Your full name
  • Your address
  • Your telephone number
  • Your insurance details
  • The vehicle’s make, model, colour and registration number.
  • You will also need the details of the car’s registered owner if these are not the same as the driver involved in the accident.

Witnesses and passengers aren't obliged by law to give you their details, but you may want to ask them politely if they are willing to share these anyway.

5. Get a medical check-up

It’s better to be safe than sorry, even if you think you've not been hurt badly.

Any bumps or bruises you've got as a result of the accident could affect your insurance claim, so make sure they're assessed and noted on your medical records by a professional.

6. Inform your insurance company

Your car insurance company will want to know about any accidents you’ve been involved in as soon as possible.

Your insurance company may even have clauses in your policy that state how quickly after an accident you need to inform them.

If you don't contact your insurers within the set amount of time it could seriously jeopardise any insurance claims, so give them a ring or go online as soon as you can.

7. Get back to normal

Once the dust has settled and you've spoken to the police and been in contact with your insurers you can leave the rest to them.

They'll be in touch if they need any further information, which means you can get back to normal.

Our FREE Car Claim app for iPhones guides you through these stages, lets you take photos of the scene and collect all the relevant details. You can also submit your claim directly through the app.

You can install our Car Claim app for free from the iTunes store here. 

This article was co-written by Alex Johnson, a freelance writer and driving enthusiast based in Oxford.

Originally published on 04/06/13.

Related Links