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Car accident advice

No one likes to think about having a car accident, but knowing what to do in the immediate aftermath of a crash is very important.

An accident could leave you feeling frightened, angry or upset, but there's a procedure you need to follow regardless of who may or may not be at fault. To help, Hastings Direct's put together a simple guide to help you know what needs to be done.

What to do immediately after an accident

1. Stop

Regardless of how minor the accident is, you have to stop. Make sure your engine's turned off and use your hazards to alert other road users of the situation.

2. Ring the emergency services

Is anyone hurt? If so, you should call an ambulance straight away. The police need to be informed if:

  • A car's blocking the road
  • If the road's been damaged
  • If the driver flees the scene without passing on their details.

If someone's injured, you must provide your insurance certificate. If you don't have it, then you'll need to report the incident at a local police station or to a constable within 24 hours – you cannot report the incident by phone. If you don't have your certificate with you at the time of reporting, you have one week to take it to the police station.

3. Exchange details

By law, you must exchange contact details with the other driver/drivers involved, including your name, address, contact number and vehicle registration. Don't accept responsibility at the scene until you have spoken to your insurer as it could affect your claim.

If there are no other drivers involved in the collision, you still need to leave your contact details. For instance, if you hit a parked car you should write your details down on some paper and tuck it under a windscreen wiper.

Additional evidence

The more information you collect at the scene of the accident, the better. Important details include:

  • Contact details of the car's registered keeper if they're different to the person driving the car at the time of the accident.
  • Names, addresses and contact numbers of any witnesses or passengers.
  • A list of damages, including: damage to the vehicles, damage to objects the cars came into contact with, and any injuries sustained by passengers or other road users.
  • The time, date and exact location of the accident.
  • The colour, make, model and condition of all vehicles involved (along with registration numbers). You should write down the number of passengers in each car, estimate speeds, and make a note if the other driver was using their mobile phone.
  • The weather conditions, along with other factors that might have contributed to the incident, such as poor lighting or a damaged road.

If you have a spare piece of paper, it's useful to sketch the scene of the accident to highlight where cars are positioned. Also, you should take lots of photos at the scene of the accident, as these will help you to remember specific details and could later be used as evidence.

Failing to stop

The Road Traffic Act dictates failing to stop's an illegal offence and drivers could face a penalty of up to £5,000 plus 5-10 points on their licence. They could also be found guilty of failing to report, which carries the same penalties.

Courts are able to disqualify drivers for failing to stop or report a collision; this often happens when both offences are committed at the same time. Drivers could also face a maximum of six months imprisonment.

Hitting an animal

Under the Road Traffic Act, you must report any accident involving: dogs, goats, horses, cattle, donkeys, mules, sheep and pigs.

If you hit any other animal (such as a deer or cat), you're not legally required to report it to the police but you may still wish to inform them.

Making a claim

As a condition of your car insurance policy, you must tell your insurer if you're involved in an accident, even if you don't want to make a claim. This should be done within 48 hours of the incident and failure to do so could invalidate your cover.

If you wish to make a claim and you weren't at fault for the accident, your insurer will try to get the cost of dealing with your claim back from the other driver's insurer. If successful, your no claims discount may not be affected.

If you're found to be at fault for the accident then your provider will attempt to make contact with the third party (the other driver) in order to help settle their claim. It's important you tell your insurer of all correspondence you receive from other parties involved so they can handle the response.

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