What to do after a car accident

Silver car with right side headlight smashed

Whether it’s a prang or a serious road traffic collision, car accidents occur every day. In the hope that you’ll never need this information, here are some tips from motoring expert Charlotte Blight on what to do after a car accident.

  • Whether it’s traffic, buildings, street furniture, people or animals involved, you must stop, as it is an offense to drive away. Stay calm. This is not the time to scream and shout.
  • If anybody involved leaves the scene, there are injuries, or the aftermath poses a risk to road users, phone the police and ambulance services immediately on 999 or 112.
  • Switch off all engines. Alert oncoming traffic, and use the hazard lights.
  • Don’t admit fault. Apportioning blame after a car accident is for others to decide, given the full set of circumstances.
  • Telephone the emergency services on 999 or 112.
  • If you hit a horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog you must report the incident within 24 hours. Reporting any other animal is at your discretion, but you must make sure it’s not injured or suffering.
  • Use your mobile or a camera for photos. Take notes about what you remember seeing, plus registration numbers and weather conditions, and make sketches while your mind is fresh following the car accident.
  • If there are any good citizens left, they’ll provide their details as witnesses. You may have to ask, though.
  • Take the details of the other people involved in the car accident – it’s a legal requirement for all those involved to provide names and current addresses, along with insurance details.
  • Having noted the positions of the vehicles and written down details from witnesses, clear the vehicles out of the way to minimise obstruction to traffic and risk of further collision

Tell your insurer as soon as possible, whether you intend to make a claim or not, so it’s ready for the other party’s contact.

If you do not exchange details at the scene, you must report your car accident at a police station or to a police constable as soon as you can, and in any case within 24 hours – in person. You'll need to produce your certificate of insurance. If you don't have it with you, take it to the police station you nominate when you report the event.

A quirky yet extremely useful piece of advice: put a piece of tailor’s chalk (it’s more resilient than standard chalk) in your glovebox. Should the need arise, use it to mark out the positions of the vehicles on the road.

Many franchised dealers offer accident assistance – make sure you have the number in the car, and make contact as soon as it’s feasible to do so.