What should I do after a car accident?
No one wants to think about being involved in a car accident but unfortunately, they can happen and you need to know what to do if you’re in one, whether you’re to blame or not.
It can be a confusing time, especially when you’re shaken up, but MotorEasy can help guide you through what to do immediately after an accident and within the first 24-hours.
Before we get into the full details, here’s a quick cheat sheet of the key points you should do:
● Stop your car
● Call the emergency services in the event of injury or road blockage
● Make sure everyone is safe
● Swap personal and insurance information
● Inform your insurance company
● Contact your GAP insurance provider
What to do immediately after a car accident
At the scene of an accident, you should follow the below process to ensure you meet your legal obligations, keep everyone as safe as possible and to ensure you have the right information for your insurance company.
Stop your vehicle
As soon as you can do so safely, stop your vehicle and turn off the engine, no matter whether it’s a small bump or a more serious accident.
Failing to stop is an offence under the Road Traffic Act and can result in the following:
● Up to a £5,000 fine
● A maximum six-month prison sentence
● Five to ten penalty points
● A driving ban
You should turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers of potential danger or road blockages unless stopped in a non-hazardous location. Even if the other driver leaves the scene, you must stop your vehicle and notify the police.
Check yourself and passengers for injuries
Once you’re stopped the vehicle, check yourself then your passengers for any injuries. These may be visual injuries such as cuts or swelling but you should also look for signs of anything internal.
Take your time to check everyone involved so you can take the appropriate next steps.
Contact the emergency services
If there are any injuries you think need medical attention, you should contact the emergency services using 999. You should request the police and, if needed, an ambulance.
If no one is injured but the accident is blocking a road, causing a hazard or you suspect an involved driver is inebriated or the accident may be deliberate, you should also call the police. If it’s not an emergency, you can contact the police on 101 to keep them informed.
Exchange details with other drivers
There are several details you’re legally obliged to give and receive if you’re involved in an RTA. Also, some additional information can help to make the claims process easier.
Below, you’ll find our recommendations for what types of information:
● Names and addresses
● Contact details
● Driver’s insurance details
● Passenger details
● The details of the car’s registered owner - likely to be the driver but occasionally not
● If a company is involved, the company name
Collect your own details
As well as exchanging details with other drivers, it’s also beneficial to collect a few details from the scene that could be useful for an insurance claim. Try to record the following:
● The exact time and date
● The make, model, registration and colour of the cars involved
● The driving conditions including the weather
● Damage to the vehicles including location and severity
● Any visible injuries
● Names and contact details of any witnesses
● Take photos if you think it’s necessary
A smartphone should be able to provide high-quality photos that can be used as part of an insurance claim.
What not to do after a car accident
As well as knowing what you should do immediately after an accident, there are a few things that you should avoid to comply with the law and help you get through the situation.
Don’t drive away
As we previously mentioned, you shouldn’t ever drive away from the scene of an accident, whether it’s an empty car or with another driver, even if you’re not at fault. Driving away could result in up to a £5,000 fine, up to six months in prison, between five and ten points or a driving ban.
Don’t admit liability for the accident
Although you may think you’re at fault, an accident might not be as cut and dry as you think. Once you admit liability, it’s hard to take it back, so avoid taking the blame at the scene of the accident. Even an apology can be considered an admission of guilt so until you’re sure, it’s best to avoid saying anything. It may be the polite thing to do but can have huge ramifications.
Don’t get angry or argue with the other drivers
As long as you swap and collect the right information, the insurance company and occasionally police will be able to get to the bottom of the accident and find out who is to blame. Arguing with another driver immediately after the accident won’t resolve the situation and can only make an already tense and stressful situation worse.
What to do within 24 hours of an accident
Once you’ve got over the initial shock of the accident, there are a few things you’ll have to do as soon as possible and at least within the first 24 hours.
Contact your insurance company
As soon as you’re able, contact your car insurance company to let them know about the incident. Even if you’re not claiming, you need to let them know what has happened.
Not informing your insurance company in the agreed-upon timeframe could result in your insurance being invalidated so do this as soon as possible to avoid an issue.
When contacting the company, you’ll need to provide them with the following:
● Your details
● Your policy details
● The other driver’s details
● Any other information collected at the scene including photos
● Incident report number from the police
From here, your insurance company should take over and deal with the matter on your behalf including the car repair and a claim, keeping you up to date throughout the process.
Inform your GAP insurance provider
If you have GAP insurance or any other insurance through a provider that’s not your primary insurance company, you should contact them and let them know about the accident.
You may have to talk to them again when you have more information but it’s always beneficial to let them know as soon as possible in the event of an incident.
See a doctor
If you develop any symptoms of an injury, you should see a medical professional for advice. If it’s severe, attend your closest A&E. If it’s manageable, contact your own GP for an appointment.
Some injuries don’t present themselves straight after an incident, especially whiplash, so seek help at any point if required.
Contact the police
If you didn’t inform the police at the scene, contact them using 101 to report the accident. This will ensure if someone else has reported the RTC, you’re informing the police of your involvement.
They will also likely provide you with an incident number which can be sent to your insurance company for their records.
Informing the police is particularly important if the car was unoccupied. If someone witnesses the incident and reports you, you will get in a lot more trouble if you haven’t also informed the police.
How will GAP insurance help in the event of an accident?
GAP (Guaranteed Asset Protection) insurance is a great way to protect yourself from financial loss if your car is written off, whether you’re to blame or not. It is especially important for new vehicles to have cover as a car can lose 60% of its value in the first three years.
With GAP insurance, you’re covered for the difference between the payout from your insurance company and the cost of either replacing your car or paying off the finance company. This discrepancy is caused by the price you pay for the vehicle and how quickly it can depreciate after purchase.
Find out more about GAP insurance in our comprehensive GAP guide.
What to do after a car accident FAQs
After an RTA, you’ll likely have a lot of questions running through your mind. Below, you’ll find some of the most common FAQs people have after an accident.
Do I always have to tell the police after an accident?
You need to inform the police within 24 hours if you don’t swap details at the scene. This will mainly apply if you’re in an accident with an empty car and you’re unable to locate the owner.
You also need to inform the police if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
For these kinds of calls, you can use 101, the non-emergency number to the police.
If anyone is injured in the accident, a road is blocked or it takes place in a potentially hazardous location, it’s recommended you contact the police immediately on 999.
Should I see a doctor after a car accident?
If you’re injured in the accident, visit your GP or A&E depending on the severity of the injury. It can be worthwhile to visit your GP to be checked over even if you don’t believe you’re injured as some injuries can be internal.
Some issues, including whiplash, may develop after a couple of days. If they do, visit your GP for a checkup.
How long do you have to report a car accident to your insurance company?
If you’re involved in an accident, you must tell your insurance company as soon as possible. Most companies will specify this is within 24 hours, however, the time will vary.
How long after a car accident can you claim on insurance?
Typically, you have three years to claim after an accident or after the date injuries can be attributed to the accident. However, times will vary according to your insurance provider.
How to get CCTV footage of a car accident?
The majority of security cameras will identify the owner with a sign, however, some may be obvious in the case of shops, private housing, etc. You should verbally, or in writing, make a request to the owner for the footage under data protection law.
You should provide information to assist with the query such as the time and date, proof of identity, a physical description, etc.
The CCTV owner should provide you with the footage within a calendar month, however, exceptions may occur such as the footage is deleted (which typically occurs after 30 days), another individual is in the footage or if the footage could put an ongoing criminal investigation at risk.
What to do in an accident if the other driver doesn’t stop?
If you’re involved in a hit and run, stop your car in a convenient place when possible at the scene of the incident. Try to take note of the driver’s registration number or any details about the car such as make, model, colour, driver description or anything else relevant.
Do not attempt to follow the other driver as you may also be classed as a runaway driver and you’ll not be able to speak to any potential witnesses.
Other than the above, you should follow the standard guidance, but ensure you contact the police and insurance company as soon as possible.
What to do if I was a passenger in a car accident?
If you’re a passenger in an accident, you’re actually more eligible to claim for damages than the driver as you can’t be considered at fault. If required, you should report the accident to the police etc.
To claim for damages, you will either go through the driver’s insurance company or independently, based on the party at blame. Contact the relevant company as soon as possible to begin the process.
Can I make an accident claim on someone’s behalf?
A claim can be made on the behalf of someone else if the person is unable to do so. Typically, this is done with children, when there’s a language barrier, if someone has a pre-existing condition that impacts their decision-making ability or if they’re involved in a life-changing incident.
Close family and in some cases, friends can claim on behalf of someone, depending on the individual’s circumstances.
What should I keep in the car in the event of an accident?
It’s not essential you keep anything in your car in the event of an accident, however, it can be handy to keep a few things somewhere handy just in case:
● Bottled water
● A pen and notebook
● A first aid kit
● A small torch
● Spare medicine - if you have a prescription medication
● A blanket
What should I do if I hit a parked car?
If you hit a parked car, no matter how much damage you cause, you should leave a note with your details and notify the police. If you don’t do this, it could be treated as a hit and run and could result in a lot of trouble.
What should I do if I hit an animal?
Thankfully, hitting animals is rare, however, if it does happen to you, you must report anything specified in the Road Traffic Act of 1988 to the police and stop your vehicle.
This mainly covers the following:
● Donkeys & mules
In the event you hit a pet, check for a collar if possible and contact the owner of the animal after calling the police. If the animal is injured, you can contact the RSPCA who should be able to help you. You can also report animals to your local councils such as foxes and badgers who should arrange for them to be removed.