What to do after a car accident

Accidents happen. But knowing what to do if you are ever involved in a road accident can take away some of the stress. That’s why we’ve put together this six-step guide. 

1. Stop your car

It doesn’t matter how minor it is or who was at fault. You must always stop after an accident if there’s:

  • Damage to anyone’s car or property
  • Someone’s hurt

Failing to stop could lead to a fine, points on your licence or even a driving ban.

If your car’s driveable and it’s safe to do so, pull over to the side of the road. Then turn off your engine and switch on your hazard lights. 

2. Call for help if you need to

As soon as you’ve stopped, check to see if anyone’s hurt. 

Call 999 immediately if:

  • Someone’s in danger or seriously injured
  • The incident has blocked the road or caused a dangerous obstruction
  • You suspect a serious offence has been committed

3. Keep your cool

Accidents can trigger a lot of emotions. But even the best drivers make mistakes. So stay calm and don’t lose your temper with anyone at the scene.

It’s also important not to apologise or admit liability for the accident. After all, you might not have all the facts yet.

4. Swap details with anyone else involved

You’ll need to swap details with any other drivers involved in the incident. 

Make sure you get their:

  • Full name
  • Contact details (phone number and address)
  • Vehicle registration, make and model
  • Insurer’s name 

If the other driver refuses to give you their details – or they drive off without giving them to you – call the police on 101 while you’re still at the scene. 

5. Take notes and photos 

It’s a good idea to note down what exactly happened while it’s fresh in your mind. You never know what details might be important later on.  

At the very least, write down: 

  • The date, time and location of the accident 
  • The make, model, colour and registration number of each car involved
  • The driving conditions (what the weather, lighting and road was like)
  • The extent of the damage

Take as many photos or videos as you can to back up your notes. These may come in handy if someone disputes what happened later on or an insurer needs more evidence. 

6. Call your insurer 

It’s important to call your insurance provider as soon as possible after an accident – even if you don’t intend to make a claim. Most say you must do so within 48 hours. 

Your insurance provider will need:

  • Your policy number 
  • Your registration number
  • The details of anyone else involved
  • The details of what happened

Do I need to report all road collisions to the police?

If the collision was minor, no one was injured and you’ve managed to swap details at the scene, you don’t usually need to report an incident to the police. 

But you must report an incident within 24 hours if you haven’t managed to swap details and:

  • Someone (other than you) has been injured
  • Someone else’s car or property has been damaged
  • A dog, horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig or goat (that wasn’t in your car) has been killed or injured
  • You suspect an offence has been committed

You can either report an incident at a police station or report an incident online

What should I do if no one else is at the scene of the accident?

It might be that you’re the only person at the scene of the accident. For instance, you might have reversed into a parked car while no one else is around. 

In this case, a lot of drivers are tempted to drive off. But it’s important that you don’t. Like we said before, driving away is an offence. And there’s a good chance someone may have caught the incident on CCTV. So you could face a fine, points on your licence or even a ban from driving.

Instead, write down your contact details and leave them at the scene. For example, on the windscreen of the car you’ve hit. If there’s damage to someone else’s property, you should also report the incident to the police. 

What if the other driver offers me money at the scene of the accident?

When you make a claim on your car insurance, it can affect how much you pay for cover in future. 

So, if you’re involved in an accident that’s not your fault, the driver responsible may offer you an on-the-spot cash settlement, to avoid getting their insurer involved and affecting their future premiums. 

But we never recommend accepting cash at the scene. You might not realise the extent of the damage to you or your car straight away. So how can you judge how much it will cost you to recover from the accident? What’s more, accepting an on-the-spot cash settlement is likely to invalidate any insurance claim. 

Do I still need to report an accident to my insurer if it wasn’t my fault or I don’t intend to claim?

You should always report accidents – no matter how minor – to your insurance provider. That’s true even if the accident wasn’t your fault or you plan on sorting the damage yourself, to avoid making a claim and losing your no claims bonus.

If you don’t report an accident, and your insurance provider finds out about it later on, there’s a chance it might invalidate your policy. This means you won’t be covered for any future claims. 

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