What to do if you have a car accident

In which the Wartime Housewife describes what to do if you have a car accident and how you should conduct yourself and deal with insurance companies.

Nowadays there is absolutely no guarantee that if you are involved in a collision with another vehicle, even if it is clearly their fault, that they are going to behave honourably and admit liability.  Even if they admit liability at the scene of the accident, this is no indication that the version of events reported to their insurers will bear any resemblance to the actual events.  Remember that the health and safety of you and your passengers is more important than your car.

I would suggest printing off a copy of this article and keeping it in your car as a checklist.

It is absolutely essential that you:-

  • Try to keep calm at all times and speak authoritatively and reassuringly to the people round you
  • Check to see if anyone in your car is hurt
  • If anyone is hurt, ring the Emergency Services – administer First Aid if safe and appropriate
  • If anyone has a pain in the neck or back, do not move them
  • Make sure that the vehicle is in a safe place if you have to leave it
  • Put your hazard lights on and erect warning triangles if you have them and it is safe to do so
  • Where possible, get everyone out of the car and take them to a place of safety eg the pavement, hard shoulder behind the barrier etc
  • Ring the Police and give them an accurate location and brief details of the incident
  • Try to find an independent witness – the passengers in your car will not be allowed to act as witnesses
  • Don’t admit fault or liability at the time of the accident – you may have misunderstood the situation or you may be bullied into thinking it’s your fault when it isn’t.  Just exchange details, tell your insurance company the truth about what happened and allow them to sort it out

Carry the following things in the car with you at all times:-

A mobile ‘phone that is fully charged and with adequate credit in the event of a problem.  However, you can always dial 999 even if you have no credit 

A camera –  take photographs of the other vehicle(s) involved, making sure to record details of damage, number plates, the make of car and the people involved if you can.  Photograph any damage to your own car.  If your camera has a video camera on it, get one of your passengers to record everything that happens if possible

A notebook and pen

·         Record the names, addresses, contact numbers and other details of the people involved.  Remember it is an offence to refuse to give details if there has been an injury or damage to you vehicle or property

·         Make a careful note of the other car’s details – make, model, colour, identifying marks etc

·         Make a sketch of the accident with positions of vehicles – you will be asked for this later and you may not remember as well as you might think

·         Make a note of what the other driver looked like and how many other people were in the car – in case they drive off

·         If the other party is in a company car, get the employment details as well

·         It is also worth making a note of driving conditions, weather, visibility and street lighting and any tyre marks on the road

  •  If the Police attend, make a note of the ‘collar number’ and name of the attending officer

 Ways to help your insurance company – and yourself:-

If you are in a built up area, car park or forecourt, there may be CCTV. Make sure your insurance company approaches the relevant authority for CCTV footage.  Remember that many companies record over tapes after a month

Return any paperwork to them, filled in accurately, by return of post

Keep a careful record of all paperwork, including telephone conversations, with dates and who you spoke to.  Type up a list of all the people involved, with contact numbers and claim references.  Make sure you put your claim reference on all correspondence

Be truthful – all our insurance premiums are going up because people make false claims and pretend that they have sustained injuries, particularly whiplash, when they haven’t

If you have genuinely sustained whiplash or another injury which may not have immediately manifested symptoms, see a doctor as soon as symptoms occur and provide your insurance company with the name of the doctor you saw

If you’ve had an accident, what did you do?  Please share any other helpful information or experience you have had in an accident situation.


Filed under Life in general, Transport

9 responses to “What to do if you have a car accident

  1. EnglishRose

    Brilliant article, and very useful!

    The bit about refusing to exchange details being an offence is interesting. I did an intensive Army driving course a couple of months ago, including an assessed unit on what to do if you’re involved in an RTA on public roads. We were taught that the other driver is only obliged to provide his/her details to the police, not to the person he has just hit, and that the police are not allowed to pass this information on to you at the scene (apparently it’s to give protection to people who fear that the other driver may track them down and beat them up later….) This makes it really, really important to get the collar number and name of the attending officer so that your insurance company can trace the driver through the police afterwards.

    Also, if there are skid marks on the road, it’s useful to take a picture of them (with something in the shot to indicate size and position) and to include the skid marks on your sketch of the incident. (Skid marks can give the accident assessors a clue about the speed of the vehicles involved, how/where they swereved to avoid something etc). And don’t forget that you’ll almost certainly go into shock once the adrenelin of dealing with the incident has worn off – which is a jolly good excuse for a large cup of tea and an even bigger slice of Christmas cake in my book……… 😉

    • wartimehousewife

      Hi English Rose – I got that information about it being an offence not to give details from the AA and RAC websites, but maybe they meant to the police. But if the police don’t attend, you have to get their details somehow. I guess that’s where taking the registration number and a description of the person comes in. Also if the other party is aggressive or threatening, you might be better off staying in your car and taking as much detail as you can from there.

  2. Affer

    The key thing to do is to fall screaming to the ground, complaining of chest and neck pains. Hopefully someone will call an ambulance, and the police will then attend shortly afterwards as it becomes a notifiable RTA. That does make life simpler……

  3. g-rider

    The key words in your article being “Be truthful” – if only everyone was.

    There’s also something about skid marks and accidents which I should mention but better not, only to say that you may not want to take pictures of them all – just the ones on the tarmac.

  4. wartimehousewife

    Is this one of yours OSM? Fab.

  5. Project50

    Sound advice, WH. Mobile phones with cameras and film really are an asset in these situations.

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