Things to remember if you are involved in a road traffic accident

clip_image002If you have ever been involved in a road traffic accident, you will know that even a minor accident can still be a big shock. It is one of those things that you don’t expect to ever happen to you, and it seems to transpire so quickly and yet it also seems to occur in slow motion.

Even if you, your fellow passengers and the other parties involved are all ok, you are still going to feel upset – our cars, after all, are usually the most expensive item we own after our homes, and as a result are amongst our most prized possessions. Therefore, when you are involved in a road traffic accident, at minimum you are likely to feel upset, chances are that you will also be in shock, and depending on how serious the accident is you may also be injured or relieved if you are not.

Because of this it is important to know what to do if you are ever involved in an accident and you should be prepared, because if it actually happens you probably won’t be thinking very clearly and could make costly mistakes.

When should you stop?

Drivers involved in traffic accidents must stop, regardless of whether or not the accident was their fault, if one of more of the following conditions applies:

  • Any person, other than themselves, has been injured
  • Any vehicle or property, other than their own, has been damaged
  • Any item of street furniture, such as a bollard, street lamp, traffic light or sign, is damaged
  • An animal (defined as horses, cattle, asses, mules, sheep, pigs, goats or dogs) running across the road or in another vehicle is injured

When you stop, you should switch off your car’s engine and switch on your hazard lights to warn other drivers to be aware of you.

How long should you stop for?

If any of the above circumstances apply, you should stay near to your vehicle for long enough so that anyone involved in the accident directly or indirectly can ask you for details. If anyone has been injured you should call 999 for an ambulance and police. If there is nobody around then you should leave your details, for example on the windscreen if you hit a parked car.

What information should you provide?

You should give your name, address, the name and address of the vehicle owner if that is not you, and the registration number of the vehicle. You should also obtain these details from the other drivers involved.

If another person is injured, you must produce your insurance certificate to anyone at the scene who has reasonable grounds to see it.

What should you make note of?

It is important to collect as much information as possible whilst at the scene, including making notes and taking photographs. Most people have mobile phones with cameras today, making it easier to take photographs, and even if you don’t have a pen and paper on you, you can probably make some notes via the note function of your phone. Things you should make note of include:

  • Date of the accident
  • Time of the accident
  • Exact location of the accident (noting towns, road names, road numbers, direction travelling, location of any junctions and notable buildings, post numbers if on a motorway, any other road markings, signs or signals)
  • Weather conditions (e.g. sunny, heavy rain, thick fog, snow, ice)
  • Traffic conditions (e.g. heavy traffic, slow moving, fast flowing)
  • Speed you were travelling at
  • Whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt
  • Details of the vehicles involved (their make, model, colour, condition, registration number, estimated speed, direction of travel, number of passengers, were they wearing seatbelts, were they using headlights or indicators)
  • Description of the driver
  • Contact details of the drivers, passengers, pedestrians, witnesses, police officers
  • Any damage to vehicles and property
  • Any injuries to yourself and to others

Admitting liability

Even if the accident was your fault, you should avoid saying sorry or admitting liability at the scene of an accident.

Reporting the accident to the police

If anyone has been injured or if the accident is blocking the road then you should call the police immediately.

If you do not provide your details at the scene of the accident, then you must report it to a police station as soon as possible, and within 24 hours. If you do not have your insurance certificate with you at the time then you can take it to a police station that you nominate when reporting the accident providing it is submitted within seven days. You cannot simply report the accident by phone or by asking someone else to do it.

If you fail to stop or fail to report an accident in which you are involved then you risk having committed two offences. There is a maximum fine of £5000 for each, and you may receive between five and ten penalty points. You may even be disqualified from driving, and could potentially face a prison sentence of up to six months.

Reporting the accident to your insurance company

You must report any accident to your insurance company within a reasonable time, even if you are not making a claim. Failure to do so can invalidate your cover.

Even though the aftermath of an accident can be a very stressful and upsetting time, it is important to follow the steps outlined in this article, as not only can failure to do so mean you are breaking the law, but also by doing so you can make any claims process going forward run a lot more smoothly and increase the chances of success.

Cooks Solicitors are experienced personal injury solicitors who can help you if you have been injured in a road traffic accident. For more information, please call 01782 713755 to discuss your case and to see if we can help you, or read our online guide to road traffic accidents.

Agree? Disagree? Do let Cooks Solicitors know what you think by commenting below.

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