Having a car accident can be one of the worst experiences of your life. As well as being physically and mentally traumatic, you will also need to deal with the aftermath of the accident, including claiming on your car insurance and getting your car repaired or written off.

In this guide, we are going to look at what you should do when you have a car accident, how to get it sorted out as quickly as possible, and how to find the best car insurance company and policy to cover your needs.

Remain calm at the accident scene

Keeping yourself calm at the scene is one of the most important things you need to do. This will enable you to report the accident correctly and gather together all of the information you need to make an insurance claim.

Immediately following the accident, you should attempt to follow these steps:

1. Call your local emergency services

As soon as the accident occurs, if you are able to, you should call 999. This ensures that help can arrive on-site as quickly as it possibly can; whether you’re waiting for police, an ambulance, or even a fire service. When in doubt, speak concisely to the emergency operator, and let them know as many details as possible. This enables them to send out the right services to your location.

If, for any reason, you are unable to call 999, then you should have a bystander do so. Calling emergency services is the very first action you should take, provided that you are in no danger and are able to do so.

2. Check injuries

Check yourself for any injuries, as well as your passengers. In the case that someone is actively bleeding, apply pressure to the wound until the paramedics arrive. Do not try to treat any other type of injury unless you or someone with you is trained in first aid. Injuries such as burns are often treated incorrectly, and dislocated limbs should be set by a professional.

Take a note of any injuries you or your passengers have suffered; you will need to know this information in case one or more of you make a car accident claim.

3. Use your phone

Take photos of any vehicles involved in the accident, as well as their license plates. Take photos of any injuries suffered. Also take photos of any street signs, and an image of the scene as it is. These can be used as evidence in your case.

4. Talk to the other parties involved

Whoever you were in a collision with, exchange your information with them so that you can both get in touch with each other after you have parted ways. You’ll need their personal details, the name of the insurance company they are registered with, their license plate number, and the number on their driver’s license.

In the case that the driver you speak to is not the owner of the car, you should also attempt to gather the owner’s information.

5. Stay safe but be vigilant

Once you have the photos and the information you need, you should either move your car or stand away from the traffic and await the arrival of the emergency services that should hopefully be with you very soon.

The reason that this is the step after images and information is to prevent the other driver from fleeing the scene. Young drivers are more likely to panic after they are involved in an accident, so do bear that in mind.

If it is not safe to move from inside your vehicle, or you are severely injured, stay put as long as it is safe to. Emergency services will be able to safely get you from your car, and the police will be able to get the information from the other driver for you. If it is not safe to stay in your car, call for assistance immediately and get away from your vehicle.

Ask bystanders to switch on the hazard lights of their cars, to warn incoming traffic of the accident. The police will take over this duty once they arrive, and anyone who didn’t witness the accident will be asked to leave.

Be careful of what you say

While experiencing a car accident can be very shocking, you must remember to be careful about what you say to anyone else involved in the crash or to anyone witnessing the accident.

You should never admit fault for the accident or try to take the blame without understanding all of the circumstances.

Whatever you say to anyone at the scene could make things a lot more difficult later on when you are trying to claim on your car insurance.

Things to do at the scene of the accident:

  • Switch off the car engine and put on your hazard lights
  • Get out of the car when it is safe to do so
  • Do not leave the scene of the accident
  • Check that everyone involved is OK including drivers and passengers of other vehicles involved in the accident
  • Call the emergency services if anyone is injured and wait for their arrival

What details you should collect at the scene

In all accident cases you should ask for:

  • Vehicle registration number
  • Name and address of the driver
  • Name and address of the vehicle owner

Should someone have sustained an injury during the accident then you can ask to see the driver’s insurance certificate. If they don’t carry this with them they will have seven days to produce this by law.

It will also help you to record the names and badge numbers of any attending police officers. This makes it easier for you to reference witnesses when making your insurance claim.

Recording the events

Try your best to keep calm and note down your account of the accident. If you have a notepad you can record what happened. If you have a smartphone you can use a note-taking app or voice recording app to make some notes.

Include such details as:

  • The time and date of the accident
  • Your memory of what happened
  • Was anyone not using headlights or indicator lights
  • What the weather conditions were
  • Any injuries sustained to yourself or others
  • The vehicle damage sustained (take photos or a video recording)
  • The details of any witnesses or passers-by
  • The car make, model and colour of all other cars involved

Should the police get involved?

Whether or not you involve the police will depend on the severity and location of the accident. Having an accident in a car park or on the road outside your home don’t often need to be reported to the police if both parties are happy to deal with the accident privately.

If no one is hurt and your car has only sustained a few minor scratches or bumps, then you need to collect as much information as you can to make an insurance claim. The police need not be involved.

Collecting as much information as you can and swapping insurance details with the other driver(s) involved will make claiming for your car repairs much easier.

You should never leave the scene without stopping and assessing the damage. Doing this can be classed as a hit-and-run and will land you in serious trouble.

However, you are legally bound to notify the police of every car accident where:

  • One of the drivers directly involved failed to stop or to exchange details. Not handing over details is classed as failure to stop
  • Someone sustains an injury
  • There is damage to someone’s property
  • An animal is injured or killed

Should your car be so badly damaged that it is impossible to drive away from the scene or someone is hurt, then the accident will be classed as being serious enough for the police to get involved. You should call the police right away in this case.

Accidents on a major road or in a danger spot

Should your accident occur on a major road such as a motorway or busy link road that will obstruct traffic or be dangerous to other road users, you will need to contact the emergency services right away.

This is also true on quiet country roads where your car may be stuck in a dangerous position such as on a blind spot, or a bend in the road with little to no visibility or sufficient braking distance for oncoming cars.

Removing your car from the scene

If you have a breakdown service such as the AA or RAC and your car can be fixed and made safe to drive away from the scene, then you will still need permission from the police before calling your breakdown service.

You will need to check your cover details as some breakdown services will not provide roadside assistance following an accident. Your policy may not include vehicle recovery from an accident scene.

The police may ask you to organise your vehicle recovery using one of their recommended companies. Many local police forces work closely with certain recovery companies used specifically for car accident scenes.

Reporting the car accident

Should you want to make a claim on your car insurance for repairs to damage sustained in the accident, then you will need to report your accident to the police to be able to get an accident report number.

You have 24 hours to report your accident to the police.

Reporting your accident is a way to give yourself some back up should the damage to your car turn out to be worse than you first suspected.

However, many drivers will agree not to report the accident especially if the damage is trivial. Regardless of this, you should always make sure to write down the number plate of the other car(s) involved just in case you are given any false contact details.

Dealing with you car insurance company

You will need to inform your car insurance company about your accident. Even if you don’t plan to make a claim on your insurance for any repairs, you still need to report any accidents as failing to do so could invalidate your current insurance policy.

Again, be careful when notifying your car insurance company. Don’t tell them anything about the accident that could be seen as an admission of liability for the accident.

Your insurer will ask you some questions when you notify them, but try to respond honestly but saying nothing that could imply you were responsible for the accident.

Being hit by an uninsured driver

Should you suspect that you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, then you can check on the Motor Insurance Database to see if the car is insured.

Check your car insurance policy to see if your policy includes any uninsured driver protection. If you are covered then it is worth claiming.

Representing Yourself in a Car Accident Claim Car accidents can be a severe cause of injury, and many people feel that they have a right to claim compensation and sue for damages. I’ve written an article about how you can claim accident compensation yourself without legal fees.

About the author

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a financial services expert, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry, including 6 years in FCA regulated companies. Read more
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