What to do in the event of an accident
We all hope never to be involved in an accident. But whether commuting to work, running the kids to school or popping to the shops, accidents can happen. If you are involved in a collision, it is likely to come both as a surprise and a shock. It is therefore important to know what you should (and shouldn’t) do.
Stop your car
Turn the engine off and switch your hazard warning lights on. If it is a minor impact and it is safe to do so, consider whether it makes sense to move your car to the side or off the road.
You should aim to move everyone off the carriageway to safety where possible and if they are able.
If you can, get over to the hard shoulder and exit the car (ideally on the side away from the traffic).
On smart motorways - where all lanes are live and there is no hard shoulder - there are refuge lay-bys every 1.5 miles. However, if you have been involved in a crash, especially one at high speed, your vehicle may not be drivable to get to the next one. If your vehicle is in the left lane, you may be able to get yourself out of the passenger side and over the barrier. Ensure you leave your hazard warning lights on before you climb out. Phone for help when you have reached safety.
If your vehicle is disabled in a live traffic lane on any motorway or fast road and you are unable to get to safety, you must stay in the vehicle with your hazard lights on and seatbelt fastened. Call the police (999) straight away to ensure you receive urgent assistance.
When should I call the emergency services?
You should call for an ambulance if anyone is injured.
You should call the police if:
- any vehicles are blocking the road
- another other driver has left the scene without providing details (or you are not sure the details provided are correct)
- you suspect another driver has been drinking or taking drugs
- you believe another driver may have caused the accident deliberately
The police might recover a vehicle if it is unroadworthy and in an unsafe place; otherwise you should call for a recovery service (such as the AA or RAC) if the car isn’t safe to drive. If the car is leased, the leasing company should be your first point of contact.
Take people's details
- Share your name and address with the other drivers involved
- Request the names and addresses of other drivers
- Swap insurance details (company and policy number) with the other drivers
- Note all the people in the vehicles involved and seek contact details for any other witnesses
- Note any injuries to anyone involved
Take scene details
- Note the date and time the accident happened
- Make a note of the weather and the state of the road (wet, dry, icy, etc.)
- Make a note of all the other vehicles involved (make, model, colour, registration numbers)
- Make a note of damage sustained to the other vehicles (note the exact panels and which side)
- If safe to do so, take photographs of the vehicles and road layout on your smartphone. (This will also provide a date and time stamp on the pictures.)
What you shouldn’t do
Never admit liability at the scene. An accident is rarely just that: someone is usually at fault, certainly in the eyes of insurance companies. Admitting it was your fault can affect how the claim is dealt with.
If you had an accident where you were the only person involved (such as hitting private property or a parked vehicle) you must not leave the scene without contacting the owner or leaving a prominent note with your details. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.
Dealing with the paper work
You should contact your insurance company and/or leasing company as soon as possible and provide the information you gathered at the scene. These will include the other drivers’ details and any witness information. You will be sent paperwork to allow you to include all the information about the accident, including a sketch to help explain how it happened. Include any photographs to help clarify.
If the car isn’t leased, you can choose not to use your insurance company and pay for the repairs yourself. You may opt to do this if the cost to fix the damage is less than your excess or if you don’t have a protected no-claims discount. If someone else is involved, their insurance company might contact yours anyway.