What to do after a car accident

Alice Morgan

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Be prepared

Unfortunately, most motorists will have to deal with being in a car accident at some time in their driving career.

It's a high-stress situation, but it'll be easier to navigate if you're calm, prepared and know what do and how to notify your car insurance.

Key points

  • Always stop at the scene of an accident
  • Exchange contact and insurance details with others who were involved
  • Record as many details from the scene as you can - it’ll help with your insurance claim

Don’t fail to stop

You must stop to exchange contact and car insurance details if you have an accident.

Unless it’s unsafe to do so, you must stop if:

  • Someone is injured, or property gets damaged
  • You kill or injure certain animals including farm animals and dogs
  • You cause damage to street signs or bollards, even if a vehicle isn’t involved

If you don’t, you’ll be committing a criminal offence.

You must report the incident to the police as soon as you can, but it must be within 24 hours.

If you fail to stop or fail to report an incident, you could be fined, given penalty points or a driving ban, or even sentenced to six months in prison.

You should also call the police if you’re blocking the road.

Don’t apologise when you stop - your insurance policy could say that you can’t admit any liability at the scene.

It could affect a claim that you make if you do.

Check for injuries

Once you’ve stopped, the first thing to do is check whether you or anyone else is injured and get them the medical attention they need.

Call an ambulance immediately if anyone is hurt - you’ll also need to call the police if anyone is injured.

Make sure you write down all the details you need after a collision - print out our handy Traffic accident record to keep in your car

Exchange details

Legally, there are certain details you must give at the scene of an accident.

If that’s not possible, give them to the police within 24 hours.

You need to share:

  1. Your name and address with everyone involved - by law, you must do this if anything’s been damaged or if anyone’s been injured

  2. Your insurance details (that’s who you’re insured with and your policy number) with other drivers

  3. Your certificate of insurance - if anyone has been injured and someone at the scene has reasonable grounds to see it

  4. Your contact details

  5. Your driving licence number

Record details of the accident

Get as much information together as you can.

This’ll make it easier to provide evidence to your insurer if you claim.

Make sure you note down:

  • The time and date of the accident
  • The details of the vehicles involved, including the make, model, colour and number plates
  • The driving conditions, including the weather, lighting and road quality
  • How much damage was done to the vehicles and which part of the vehicles are affected
  • Contact details from any witnesses
  • A description of what happened - take photos to back this up

Report the accident to your insurance company

Always tell your insurer about an accident straight away, even if you don’t want to claim.

The other driver could claim against you so it’s best to let your insurer know your side of the story first.

Your insurer should now handle the claim for you. If you’re contacted directly by anyone else involved in the accident or their insurer, just ask them to contact your insurer instead.

How long do I have to report a car accident to my insurance company?

You’ll have a set period from when the accident happens to tell your insurer - it could be a few days or a couple of weeks. If you don’t, you could invalidate your cover.

You can find out how long you have in your policy documents.

But you must report a traffic accident which has caused damage or injuries to the police within 24 hours. You've also got to tell your insurer that the incident occurred, even if you're not intending to claim.

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