What to do in a car accident

Car accidents can happen to anyone, even if it's not our fault, so it's important to always be prepared. We've compiled a handy list of five things to do if you’ve been involved in an accident and to help you make a claim with your insurance company afterwards.

Being involved in a car crash or vehicle collision can be extremely stressful. Try to keep a clear head and remember what steps to take immediately after. Failing to do so could prove very costly, or even invalidate your car insurance.

 

Stop, Check, Phone, Exchange, Inform

1. Stop your car

 

As soon as it is safe to do so, stop the vehicle 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. You might also incur 5 to 10 points on your licence and a discretionary disqualification, depending on the circumstances.

2. Check for danger

 

You should try to move your car away from moving traffic or busy roads. If damage to your car makes this impossible, you should try to make the scene of the accident as safe as possible. Do this by switching on your hazard lights and checking that the road is clear before leaving your vehicle and moving to a safer place.

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.

3. Phone the emergency services if necessary

 

If no-one from either 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 too if there has been any personal injuries. So it’s important to make sure you don't wait too long before making contact.

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 information & details

 

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.
  • The details of the car’s registered owner, if different from the driver involved in the accident.
  • If it’s safe to do so, take pictures of any damage done to the vehicles and situational pictures so as to support your case if it goes to court. 
  • As hard as it is, avoid apologising or admitting responsibility if it wasn’t your fault.

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. They might be useful to your insurer should you make a claim after the accident.

5. Inform your insurance provider

 

Your car insurance company will want to know about any accidents you’ve been involved in as soon as possible. There may even be a clause in your policy that states how quickly after an accident you are expected to inform your insurer after a car crash.

If you don't contact your insurer within the set amount of time it could seriously jeopardise any car insurance claim you make down the line. Make sure to contact them about the incident as soon as you can.

What happens next?

 

Once you’ve completed the checklist, you've spoken to the police (if appropriate) and been in contact with your insurance company, you can leave the rest to them. They should be in touch if they require further information or if there are any updates on the police report.

Even if you think you've not been hurt badly, it’s a good idea to get a medical check. Any bumps or bruises gained during the accident could affect your insurance claim, so make sure they're assessed and noted on your medical records by a professional.

For information on how to make a MORE THAN car insurance claim and for important contact details, visit our making a claim page.

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