What to do if you’re in a car accident

A car accident can be as shocking as it is stressful. What should you do in the aftermath of an accident to prevent a bigger headache later on? How can you handle the situation calmly and confidently? Here are some top tips to keep in mind...

A broken down car is in the background with a small portable hazard sign set up in front of it.

1. Stay safe and keep calm

The very first thing to do after any accident is STOP, no matter how minor it is.

Then, remove yourself from danger as quickly as possible. Start by turning your engine off and putting your hazard lights on to alert other motorists that you've had to stop.

It's then time to leave your vehicle and stand in a safe location well away from it. This is particularly important if there's a risk of fire, and to also minimise the chances of you being hit by another vehicle.

What if somebody is injured?

If somebody is injured or trapped in a vehicle following an accident, call 999 immediately.

Reassure the patient as best you can, and try to keep them warm and comfortable while you wait for the emergency services to arrive.

It's generally not advised to move a casualty following a road accident, in case of any underlying injuries. However, you may be able to carry out some simple first aid, if you feel confident doing so.

When should you call the police?

You should notify the police of an accident within 24 hours of it occurring, as per Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

You should also inform the police immediately if an accident took place on a motorway, there's damage to street furniture, or if a road is blocked.

Remember: only call 999 in an emergency – 101 will suffice in non-emergency situations with no police involvement.

Close up image of two car bumpers colliding at slow speed

2. Collect the other driver’s insurance details

Whether or not a car accident is your fault, you need to make sure you exchange the following with the other driver:

  • Insurance details
  • Registration numbers
  • Names and addresses

It’s also worth taking a note of:

  • Names, addresses and registrations of any witnesses
  • Details of any police officers at the scene
  • Date, time and weather conditions when the accident occurred

What extra details should you give?

As well as everything listed above, you should be careful not to take the blame for an accident, even if you think it was your fault. Let your insurer and/or the police work out who’s to blame.

If the police are involved, you’ll need to provide your insurer with a police incident number, so be sure to jot this down.

What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

If an accident you’re involved in is caused by another motorist, their Car Insurance policy will usually cover the cost of repairing any damage to your vehicle and any medical expenses. But what happens if they’re uninsured?

With a Swinton Classic or Premier comprehensive Car Insurance policy, your excess will be recovered and your no claims bonus will be protected, should you be unlucky enough to get caught up in an accident with an uninsured driver.

Recovery truck picking up a car

3. Photograph the scene

Most people always have a camera to hand these days, given the abundance of smartphones.

With this in mind, try to take a few shots of the accident scene if it’s safe to do so. Photograph any damage to vehicles, as well as any marks left on the road and damage to street furniture such as lampposts and bollards.

What if you have a dash cam?

According to retail analyst Growth from Knowledge, dash cam sales have increased by 600% in the last three years.

Being able to supply dash cam footage of an accident to your insurer or the police may help you when it comes to any claims being made against you.

Dash cams are of particular use if you’re targeted in a 'crash for cash' scam.

 
Closeup of two car bumpers and handshake

4. When should you inform your insurer?

Most insurers require you to report any accidents, even if you don't intend to make a claim, so be sure to inform your provider as soon as possible.

What if you suspect a 'crash for cash' scam?

A ‘crash for cash’ scam is when criminals deliberately cause road accidents in the hope of making fraudulent insurance claims. According to the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), these scams are costing £340 million a year.

How can you identify a ‘crash for cash’ scam? The IFB advises that you look out for the following signs from the other driver:

  • They appear too calm, considering they’ve just been in an accident
  • They’ve already noted down their insurance details before the accident’s even happened
  • The severity of their injuries doesn’t correlate with the force of the impact

So what do you do if you’re caught up in a scam?

As you would in the aftermath of a ‘normal’ accident, make sure you write down as many details as possible about the incident and the driver, along with any photos.

Then, let the police know that you’re suspicious of a scam, and call the IFB’s Cheatline on 0800 422 0421 – any information you can offer may help them identify organised gangs of scammers.

 

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