What to do after a road traffic accident


There are almost 39 million licensed vehicles in Britain. Therefore, road traffic accidents are a common occurrence. Statistically speaking, it is very likely all of us will be involved in one at some point. Here is what to do after you are involved in a road traffic accident. 

1) Stop

Firstly, after any kind of collision in a vehicle with another vehicle, person, animal or another object, you must stop. Failing to stop following an accident is a serious offence under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Failing to stop has severe penalties attached, including fines, disqualification from driving and in some cases, a custodial sentence. When safe, you must stop completely, put the hazard lights on and make sure that you and any passengers are uninjured. If there are injuries, call emergency services. Then, get out of your vehicle and assess any injuries to other people, vehicles, property or animals. If there are severe injuries, call emergency services. If you cannot find any injuries or damage and other witnesses agree, then you are free to go. Unfortunately, as modern cars are designed to crumple on impact to dissipate energy, this is not often the case.

2) Swap insurance details

The law requires all parties involved in an accident to stop so as to allow everyone involved to exchange insurance details. It is important to note that if you stop, but leave the scene before giving someone this opportunity, you may still be guilty of failing to stop. You must give your details to anyone with reasonable cause to ask for them, which includes the drivers of other vehicles involved in the accident, owners of any damaged property and any witness with an interest where there is no other driver or property owner at the scene to give your details to.  If you hit a parked car, it is sufficient to leave a note on the windscreen with your details on. 

Here are some other useful tips to bear in mind at the scene of an accident: 

  • Try to refrain from accusing others of fault or admitting fault yourself. Whilst it may be tempting, it is best to let insurers sort out liability once all parties have submitted their claims. Check other parties are uninjured but do not enter into discussions about fault or cause, as this could affect your claim later down the line. 
  • If you cannot put your hand on your insurance details at the scene, then swap all other details and make sure to exchange afterwards. 
  • Similarly, do not approach other parties with cash offers to “keep insurers out of it” and decline any offers that may come your way. This is because sometimes damage or injuries are not obvious at the scene and the third party could file a claim anyway. 
  • In the era of smartphones, it may be useful to take pictures of the other cars involved and the damage to your car. But don’t worry if this does not cross your mind, the most important thing to remember to do is exchange details. 

What details should I give and what details should I get from others involved?

  • Your /their name 
  • Your/their address 
  • Your/their vehicle registration, make and model 
  • Your/their insurance details including who you are insured by and the policy number 
  • It is also useful to exchange phone numbers in case anything is missed out or incorrectly copied down at the scene

Once everyone at the scene is satisfied that all details have been exchanged and you are sure there are no injuries, you are permitted to leave the scene, provided your vehicle is in a safe condition and roadworthy.

What if I’m hit by an uninsured driver?

If it comes to light that another party involved in a collision is uninsured, then make sure you get as many details as possible. You will also have to report the accident to the police, even if no one was hurt, as driving without insurance is an offence and you may need the police’s help to track down the driver if they have given you incorrect details. You will need to note down the: 

  • Involved vehicles make, model and registration number
  • Drivers name and address 
  • Vehicle damage
  • Contact details of any witnesses

Recovering damages can be more difficult, as the other party does not have insurance to cover (potentially very expensive) costs of car repairs and injury related costs. Depending on who was at fault in the accident, if the third party cannot meet their financial obligations, there is a mechanism for compensation called the Motor Insurer’ Bureau, which will cover the costs. However, if the accident was your fault, you may have to claim off your own insurance policy. 

How do I know if my vehicle is safe to drive after a road traffic accident?

The last thing that anyone would want after an accident is to be caught driving a car that would be deemed un-roadworthy. Driving a damaged car carries its risks (such as less protection for the drivers and passengers if crumple zones are collapsed) and could invalidate your insurance. If the headlights or taillights are damaged, the tyres are not correctly aligned or inflated, the bumpers are hanging off or other pieces of the car are dragging on the road, it is most likely not safe to drive and you should call a recovery vehicle. 

3) If needed, report to the police

If people (or animals) have been injured following the collision, you must report this to the police within 24 hours.  You will also have to show your certificate of insurance within 7 days. Failure to comply with this requirement is a serious offence under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act.  It is not sufficient to rely on another person involved to report it to the police, each party involved must report the accident.

4) Report the incident to your insurers

After the dust has settled, you will then have to report the incident to your insurance company. They will ask you in detail what happened, who else was involved, if there were any witnesses and what kind of injuries and damage was sustained. To help this process along it is a good idea to have lots of information to hand and try not to rush the process. 

This will include: 

  • Your insurance policy number and the insurance details of other drivers involved
  • Dates and times of the incident
  • Any dashcam footage
  • Your version of events (including what direction you were travelling and what lane you were travelling in, where the collision occurred and what damage occurred). Whilst the incident is fresh in your mind and if possible before you speak to anyone else, jot down everything you can remember and use sketches if it will help. You are likely to be lead by other people’s accounts and you must provide a full and truthful account of the incident to your insurer.   

5) Contact a specialist road traffic accident solicitor

At Ackroyd, we understand that the consequences of road traffic accidents can be severe and that the process of claiming can be difficult to navigate alone. We are a leading road traffic accident solicitors, with a combined experience of over 300 years. The vast majority of our RTA claims are funded by a conditional fee arrangement, commonly known as “no-win, no fee”. This means there is no financial risk, as you will not have to pay any legal costs should your claim be unsuccessful. Whether you have sustained minor whiplash or life-changing injuries, or anything in-between, get in touch with us today.  We will gather information about your unique case and quickly assess your claim. Whether or not we decide to proceed with your claim, you will be supported every step of the way by our team. 

Get in touch today on 0203 058 3365 or enquiries.sa@ackroydlegal.com