What to do after a car accident

Nobody expects to be involved in a car accident, but unfortunately these things happen. It can be a highly stressful situation and if you’re not prepared you could make a bad situation a whole lot worse.

Our guide will help you understand the steps you need to take so if the worst happens you know how to keep yourself safe, stay within in the law, and manage an insurance claim.   

Pull over and stop

Even if the accident was only minor you must stop as soon as possible and remain at the accident scene.

Failing to stop in any of the following scenarios is an offence under the Road Traffic Act, and you could be fined, given penalty points or a driving ban, or even sentenced to six months in prison.

  • a person, other than yourself, is injured,
  • damage is caused to another vehicle or to someone else’s property – including street lamps, signs, bollards etc.
  • an animal, other than one in your own vehicle/trailer, has been killed or injured (animal means any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog)

If possible, pull over to the side of the road or find another safe place. Turn off the engine and switch your hazard lights on to alert other drivers to your presence.

Check for injuries

Check for any injuries to yourself and your passengers. If anyone is badly hurt your first priority should be to call an ambulance. Do not try and remove anyone who appears to be seriously injured from the vehicle unless they are in immediate danger.

Car Accident

Know when to get the police involved

It’s normal to be shaken up after an accident. Take a few breaths and try to remain as calm as possible, before taking stock of the situation. And whatever you do, don’t lose your temper or get into an argument with anyone. 

Leave the vehicle

If you’re not injured and it is safe to do so, then get out of the car and take any passengers and pets from the vehicle to a safe place. If you’re on a motorway you must leave any animals in the vehicle, or in the case of an emergency, keep them under proper control on the verge.

Call the police

You must call the police on 999 or an SOS phone if the accident has caused a major collision or if the accident scene is blocking the road. If you suspect the other driver caused the crash intentionally, does not have insurance, or is under the influence of drink or drugs you must also call the police.

If the accident doesn’t require an emergency police response call 101 instead.

Exchange details

You must give your name and address to anyone else involved in the accident. If you are driving a vehicle that does not belong to you, you must also give the owner’s details, as well as the car’s registration number. It is illegal to withhold information if a person or animal has been injured or killed or there is damage to any vehicle or property.

Unless you’ve been injured there is no requirement to provide details of your car insurance but it may help to speed up the claims process if you exchange the names of your insurance providers and policy numbers.

If someone has been injured then you must produce your insurance certificate if anyone at the scene has reasonable grounds to request it.

Breath test

If the police attend the scene of the accident they may ask you to take a breath test. If you refuse and do not have a ‘reasonable excuse’ then you could be arrested.

You will get a result from a breath test straight away. If you fail the test then you’ll be taken to a police station for another test and if it’s positive you’ll be charged.

If a police officer thinks you’ve taken drugs they can ask you to take a drug test or do a physical test such as walking in a straight line. You can be arrested if you fail the test.

Don't admit guilt

It is a myth that apologising at the scene of an accident means you are legally accepting blame for it. However, it’s best not to say sorry or admit responsibility as any verbal statement could be used against you and could ultimately invalidate your claim.

Simply check that the people involved in the accident are ok and let your insurance companies deal with the rest.

Take notes

As well as exchanging insurance details with any other drivers involved in the accident it is useful to make some notes while you are at the scene which may assist with any insurance claim.

Make a note of the following:

  • A description of what happened
  • The time and date of the accident
  • The weather and lighting conditions
  • The quality of the road
  • Details of the vehicles involved including make, model, colour, and registration numbers
  • Damage done to vehicles and property
  • Contact details of any witnesses.
  • If it is safe to do so take some photos of the scene from different angles.
Big Red Button

Eloy's Big Red Button

Our Big Red Button guides you through what to do after a car accident

You can make notes at the scene of an accident using our accident manager, or as we like to call it, our Big Red Button. You can save the details in the app for your records, or generate a PDF report that you can send to your insurer. 

Contact your insurer

You should contact your insurer as soon as you can even if you don’t intend to make a claim. If you don’t contact them within the period laid out in your policy then you may invalidate your cover.

Give your insurer an outline of the event from your point of view and the details of any witnesses. If you have dashcam footage or photographs your insurer may request copies.

Once you have informed your insurer of the accident it is their responsibility to work with other insurance companies to resolve the claim.

Visiting a police station

If nobody was injured and both parties stopped at the scene of the accident and exchanged names and addresses there is no need to report the collision to the police. In any other circumstances, for example if another party was not involved, you must report the accident in person at a police station as soon as practicable and within 24 hours.

You don’t have to report the collision at the police station in the area where the crash occurred if it’s not possible, but if you travel many miles and pass several police stations before you report it then you will have not complied with the requirements of as “soon as practicable”. You will need to produce your driving licence, insurance certificate, MOT certificate, and the details of the vehicle involved in the accident.  

Our app includes an accident manager so if you’re ever unlucky enough to have a bump in a car park or a collision on the high street you’ll have everything at hand to help you deal with it quickly and smoothly.