What to do if you are involved in a Road Traffic accident?

A car accident can be a very frightening and upsetting experience.  It can leave you panic-stricken, dumbstruck or very angry. It is however important to stay calm and focus on the task at hand. By following a few simple steps after an accident, you can help prevent further accidents or added injuries to you, your passengers and other road users.

In the event of an accident:

  1. Put on your hazard warning lights.
  2. Turn off your engine.
  3. Check to see if anyone has been injured and if necessary call 999.

The law states:

If you are the driver and one or more of the following has happened:

  • A person, other than yourself, is injured
  • Damage is caused to another vehicle or to someone else's property
  • An animal has been killed or injured, except in your own vehicle or trailer

         (An 'animal' is defined as 'any horse, cattle, sheep, pig, goat or dog')

You must: 

Even if the accident is not your fault - Stop and stay at the scene for a reasonable time.

Check to see:

  1. Are the positions of the damaged vehicles likely to cause a further accident? For  example, is it dark; are the vehicles on a blind bend or on a brow of a hill and is there spilt oil or petrol?  
  2. Only if no one has been injured and the vehicles pose a danger to other drivers; You should call 999 and while your waiting for the Police, try to get those involved to move their vehicles to a position of safety but as near to the accident as possible.
  3. If someone has been injured unless medically qualified do not move them, call 999 and the ambulance service operator will talk you through how best you can help the injured.  
  4. While you are waiting for the emergency services, if you have a high visibility waistcoat wear it regardless of daylight.  
  5. If it is safe to do so, put out warning triangles at least 45 metres behind the accident to warn oncoming traffic.  
  6. Make sure all vehicles have their engines turned off and their hazard warning lights on.
  7. Avoid the risk of fire by making sure no one is smoking near the scene of the accident.

The law states:

  • You must give your vehicle registration number, your name and address, and that of  the vehicle owner (if different) to anyone with reasonable grounds for asking for those details.
  • If you do not exchange those details at the scene, you must report the accident at a police station or to a police officer as soon as you can and in any case within 24 hours.

Record the details of the accident:

For your own legal benefit, while events are still fresh in your memory. Draw a diagram to recreate the scene and if you have a camera or camera phone, take as many photographs as possible of the vehicles, accident scene, and surrounding area.

You should gather as much basic information as possible and be sure to include important landmarks to help decide where certain events happened. As time passes, memories fade and new versions of the chain of events are created. Putting the basic information down on paper at the scene of an accident will help later when liability for the accident is being examined. This is especially important if someone has been fatality injured.

You should write down the following:

  • Time and date of the accident.
  • Weather and road conditions.
  • Directions of travel before accident (all involved).
  • Condition of vehicles (bald tyres, broken headlights, missing mirrors).
  • What parts of the vehicles were damaged?
  • Quick sketch of rough angle of collision and where the cars contacted each other.
  • Car makes, colour and registration numbers.
  • Note any Pedestrian crossings, Stop signs, Speed limit signs, Traffic lights, Roadway markings (double Yellow or Red lines) or (No overtaking double White lines).
  • Name and contact information, insurance details from those involved. Note! In England, Wales and Scotland, the owner of a car can be traced by the DVLA if they refuse to give their contact details at the scene of an accident.
  • Name and contact information for any witnesses. You should be aware that witnesses have no legal obligation to conform, so treat them with respect and courtesy.

    The law states:

    Where another person involved is injured, then as well as the above you must:  

        ●   Produce your certificate of insurance, if anyone at the scene has reasonable
             grounds to see it. If you do not, you must report the accident at a police
             station or to a police officer as soon as you can. This must be within 24
        ●   If you don't have your certificate of insurance at the scene of the accident,
             you may take it to a police station you nominate when you report the
             incident. You must do this within seven days of the accident. 
        ●   Reporting the accident to the police by telephone is not sufficient and you
             cannot ask someone else to report it for you.
        ●   You must do these things not only when you are directly involved in an
             injury accident, but also if your vehicle's 'presence' was a factor.
        ●   Failing to do the above can mean two offences are being committed: failing
             to stop and failing to report. It is possible to be guilty of either or both. The
             penalties for each offence include a maximum fine of £5,000 and five to ten
             penalty points on your driving licence. 
        ●   The court also has the power to disqualify you from driving for either
             offence and is likely to do so when both offences are committed on the
             same occasion.

    The law states:

             Even if there was no personal injury involved, if someone holds you
             responsible for the accident they have the right to request your insurance
             details. This request can be made later and not necessarily at the time of
             the accident. A failure to provide that information without a reasonable
             excuse is also an offence.

             It will also be a condition of your insurance policy that you report the
             accident to your insurance company within a reasonable time, even if you
             do not want to claim yourself. A failure to do so can give your insurance
             company the right to refuse to cover you in the future.

    Do not admit fault or liability:

    At the scene, do not discuss the car accident with anyone other than the police. With everyone involved in a likely state of shock or anger it can be difficult to think clearly and accurately about what happened.

    Stationary Objects:

    If you hit a non-moving object such as a wall or parked car, you are required by law to stop and give your details to the owner or to anyone who has a sound reason to ask for them. If the owner of the property or vehicle cannot be contacted, you have a legal duty to report the incident to the police.

    Accidents where no one has been hurt or injured:

    In certain circumstances some accidents need not be reported to the police; these tend to be minor accidents, for example a rear shunt or a scrape in a car park.  Provided no one has been hurt or injured and both drivers have stopped and agreed to exchange names, addresses and insurance details, this is sufficient to meet the Road Traffic Act legislation. Only call the police if you believe the other driver is driving under the influence of drink or drugs or has provided you with false details.

    What to do if you are involved in a Road Traffic accident?

    Road Traffic accident: Tips and advice Article No 41 RoadDriver 2010

    For more information and a printable version to pass on to friends and family, click the link below.

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