What should I do if I have a car accident?

Do you know what you should do if you have a car accident? The very idea is terrible, but knowing what to in advance can take a little of the stress out of this very stressful situation.

There are also things you can do at the scene that could make the process of claiming more straightforward and cheaper.  For example, if the accident was your fault, getting the other driver’s details to share with us, could make you eligible for a £150 Information Bonus. That’s a decent contribution towards paying your excess. More on this below.

This article breaks down what you should do after an accident, how you should report it and how to start your insurance claim.

What should I do if I’m in a car accident

Stop the car

First of all, stop the car as soon as you safely can. It is illegal to drive away from a car accident, no matter how minor, and makes you a terrible human being.

Once you’ve stopped, turn off your engine. You need to find out if your car is damaged whether it’s safe to drive.

Then put your hazard lights on. If it’s safe to do so, put out your warning triangle. You legally have to carry at least one of these in the car

Make sure everyone is ok

Check yourself, your passengers and anyone else involved. If you need to, call 999 straightaway and get an ambulance.

If the car accident has happened on a motorway, pull onto the hard shoulder. Get out of the car from the righthand side (i.e. the opposite side to the cars) and stand behind the safety barriers.

Call the police if you need to

You need to call 999 straight away if the road is blocked or it’s a major accident.

Using your mobile is the most convenient way, but if you’re on the motorway you can also use the emergency phones. You’ll find one every mile along the hard shoulder. It automatically connects you to the police or highway agency, and they’ll know where you’re phoning from so they’ll be able to easily find you.

Exchange details with the other driver

The next step is to speak to the other people involved so you can exchange details. Everyone will likely be very shaken but be careful not to apologise or admit guilt. This could affect the insurance claim.   

Here are the details you should try to get from the other driver or drivers involved in the incident:

  • Name and address (if there is any damage you are legally obliged to swap these)
  • Contact number
  • Car registration
  • Insurance details

It’s important to get the other driver’s details. This is because if the car accident was the other driver’s fault, then you’ll claim on their insurance. If the accident was your fault and they’re going to claim on your insurance, then sharing these details allows us to contact their insurer and be proactive about managing their claim. If we’re able to do this based on the details you share, you’ll be eligible for a £150 Information Bonus as a thank you.

Record details if the accident

On top of this, try to record as many details at the scene of the car accident as you can. All this information can help with your insurance claim. Take pictures, get the details of any witnesses and make notes on timings, damage and injuries.

Call your insurance company

Get in touch with your insurance company as soon as you can. This is a good idea even if you aren’t planning to claim, as the other person might. You should plan to share the following info with your insurer:

  • The registration number of the cars involved.
  • The driver’s name, address and phone number.
  • The driver’s insurance details if you have them.

If you do decide to claim, head to our post on how to make a claim for the exact process.

What should I do if I scrape someone’s car?

A wing mirror ding, a scrape, clipping a wall – while all these things sound minor, they do count as ‘road traffic collisions’. However small they are, if there is any damage to property then you need to pull over and stop.

As with more serious accidents, you need to exchange details with the other people involved in the accident.  If the accident was your fault and there were no serious injuries, please provide the other driver with our name and your policy number and invite them to contact us. As soon as you report the accident to us, we’ll be able to assist them with repairs and a courtesy car.

If no one is around, then leave your contact details somewhere that they can easily be found. A good place is on the windscreen, under the wiper blade.

As this may feel like a minor incident, it can feel tempting to drive away but you shouldn’t. It’s illegal under the Road Traffic Act. You could get in a lot of trouble if there’s a witness or you get caught on CCTV. You could get a fine, points on your licence or even be banned from driving.

Do I always need to call the police if I’ve had a car accident?

You don’t need to call the police if you exchange details, nobody was injured and there are no allegations of driving offences (like drink driving or driving without insurance).

If the opposite is true – you couldn’t exchange details, someone was hurt or driving offences are suspected – then you do need to register the collision with the police within 24 hours.

You should also call on them spot them if:

  • the other driver won’t share their details or appears to be driving without insurance.
  • The crash was caused by dangerous driving.
  • Someone involved was driving under the influence of drink or drugs.

You can do this by:

  1. Reporting online. Each local police force has a dedicated page – here’s the Met Police page, for example. You can find the page you need by googling ‘report a road traffic collision in [insert your location].
  2. Calling the non-emergency police number – 101
  3. Going down to your local police station.

Make sure you note down the incident reference number so you can share that with your insurance company.

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