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What should you do if you have a car accident?

Updated on: 23 March 2021

car accident

Accidents do happen and they're not fun, that's for sure – so learn to stay cool and do the right thing after a crash.

1. First steps

Before doing anything else, make sure that no one is hurt. If they are, then ring the emergency services immediately. Try to keep calm – you may be stunned by the crash but take some deep breaths to get your head round what's just happened.

If the car's still moving after the collision and you feel you have the car under control, you should stop the car - when and where it's safe to do so - and exchange details with the other driver. It's also a legal requirement to stop if a vehicle or any other property has been damaged.

Your car may come to a stop in a location causing a hazard to other road users. In this case you should make sure you're safe and follow The Highway Code's advice on how you can help alert others of the accident.

2. The other driver

You may find that other drivers involved in the accident aren't being cooperative, perhaps trying to push the blame onto you, but don't be pressured into taking the blame. Wherever the fault might lie, you should never admit liability – that's something for your insurer or even the police to work out.

If the driver approaches you with money, and says that there's no need for the insurance people to get involved, you should refuse them.

It's also worth noting if there was anything untoward about the crash. Had the other driver been holding a mobile just before the accident? Can you smell alcohol on their breath? Be discreet, don't confront them, but do tell the police when they arrive.

3. Exchanging details

Fussing about with exchanging details may be the last thing on your mind when your beloved motor has just been trashed, but it's the law and can help protect you further down the line. It makes sense to exchange as many details as possible.

You must exchange your car registration number, name and address, and details of the registered keeper if different from the driver. We also recommend you exchange phone numbers.

You should also take down the other driver's registration number in case they've given you a phoney name – the police can trace the owner with that information.

If you've caused an accident without anyone else being involved, such as hitting a wall, fence or parked car, you should report the incident to the police as soon as it's safe to do so.

4. Gathering evidence

The police are the experts, but what if it's a minor crash and they're not needed? Time to play detective. While making sure you're safe, make a detailed sketch of the scene and take photos using your phone. Note the exact location of vehicles and damage, road layout, street names, and the colour, make and number plates of cars involved in the accident. 

If there are witnesses, get their details too – at the time things may look straightforward but you could get a surprise if you don't get backup. What about the driver who reverses out of a space without looking and you hit them? They're to blame, you think, until they tell their insurer they were stationary and you drove into the back of them…

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