First of all, make sure everyone is ok and safe.
Ensuring everyone is safe and well is the first priority after an accident. Call an ambulance if you are at all unsure about anyone’s wellbeing.
Secondly, stay calm.
Road traffic accidents happen all the time and, more importantly, they are sorted out all the time too. Staying calm will help you in dealing with the immediate aftermath of the accident.
Thirdly, try to make things safe for other people.
If possible, and it is safe for you to do so, get your vehicle into safe position to avoid any other accidents from happening. If your vehicle can’t be moved and is a potential hazard, do what you can to give advance warning to other road-users, such as using your hazard lights or placing a warning triangle.
Do not put yourself in further danger, however. Watch out for other traffic and avoid staying in your car if you are at the side of a motorway.
What do I have to do next?
You are required by law to stop after an accident and provide your details to anyone who might have good reason to ask for them. This can include any other drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, or owners of damaged vehicles or property involved in the accident.
When talking to other people involved, try to keep things impersonal and polite. It is best not to discuss anything about fault for the accident, whether you feel you were to blame or not.
The details you have to give are:
- Your name and address.
- The name and address of the owner of your vehicle (if this is someone else).
- Insurance details for your vehicle.
It’s a criminal offence to leave the scene of an accident without providing these details in accidents where:
- Someone else has been injured.
- Another vehicle or trailer has been damaged.
- Certain kinds of animal have been injured (see below).
- Property on or near the road has been damaged.
If there is no one to provide your details to, you must report the accident to the police within 24 hours.
Accidents involving animals
If you have been in an accident where an animal has been injured, it can be very distressing.
However, the legal obligation to stop, provide details to any person involved and/or report the matter to the police only applies to certain kinds of animal. These are:
You are under no such legal obligation if you hit an animal which is not listed above, such as a cat or a deer for example, but you may wish to report the accident anyway.
If you think any animal you have hit might be a pet, you could try to take it to a vet or call the RSPCA. For wild animals, you should just call the RSPCA.
Be careful when approaching an injured animal as it is likely to be very scared and may try to defend itself by biting, scratching or lashing out.
Reporting your accident to the police
If you have exchanged details with the other people involved in the accident you do not need to call the police. However, it is recommended that you do so.
Reporting an accident to the police ensures the accident is recorded and can avoid the possibility of committing the offence mentioned above.
The police may not attend the scene as, usually, they will only attend if there are severe injuries, there is damage to public property, or the vehicles involved are obstructing traffic and cannot be moved.
Calling your insurance company
You must always report any accidents to your insurance company, even if you aren’t planning on making an insurance claim.
Your policy will almost certainly include a requirement to inform your insurance company of any accidents. This means, if you don’t report your accident, and they find out, it could make your insurance invalid.
Your insurers will almost always become involved if you decide to make a personal injury claim or anyone else involved in the accident decides to claim against you.
What can I do to help with possible personal injury claims?
Whether you have been injured yourself, a passenger in your vehicle has been injured, or there was an injury to another road-user, there are steps you can take to prepare for, or guard against, any possible claims:
- Take details of any witnesses, such as their name, address, and contact number.
- Take photos of the vehicles and any damage caused. If you can take a photograph of the vehicles in situ, this is often very helpful.
- Do not make any agreements with other drivers – such as for a ‘cash-in-hand’ compensation payment or to keep insurance companies out of the matter. Although such offers might sound reasonable at the time, you run several risks. You might invalidate your insurance and, at this stage, you do not know what the consequences of the accident might be. If it later becomes apparent that you have suffered an injury, you might effectively prevent yourself from making a claim. Your insurance company will have no record of it and – in all likelihood – neither will the other driver’s. Not a good basis for a claim!
Even if making a personal injury claim is the last thing on your mind at the moment, these are still useful precautions to take. They can:
- Assist you to claim on your own insurance, demonstrating you have been involved in a genuine accident.
- Help your insurance company defend any claims made against you if you were not at fault for the accident.
- Provide vital evidence if you later decide to make a personal injury claim. It’s possible you may develop injuries at a later stage – even if you feel fine at the moment. Certain injuries, such as whiplash, can sometimes take several hours to appear.
The days and weeks ahead
Be mindful that if you have been injured and another party was at fault for the accident, you may be able to make a road traffic accident personal injury claim.
For the moment, you will have other priorities. Concentrate on the matters discussed above, and bookmark this page in case you wish to make a claim in future.
Remember that if your insurance company allocates your case to a firm of personal injury solicitors, you are always free to switch solicitors to Truth Legal if you wish.
If you would like to discuss a compensation claim, please contact us.
From one of the UK’s most read legal blogs.