What To Do If You Have A Traffic Accident

Having A Traffic Accident is Rarely An Enjoyable Occasion, In The Unlikely Event That You're Ever Involved In One, Here's What You Should Do!

Aug 11, 2014

While road safety has improved over recent years there are still hundreds of car accidents on Britain’s roads every day. From small bumps to major accidents, accidents do happen and so it’s important that you know what to do if you’re involved in a crash.

We’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know if you have a traffic accident. We outline 5 steps you should take and explain what happens if your car is ‘written off’. We also look at the impact of an accident on the cost of your car insurance.

Steps to take when you have been involved in an accident

1. Stop and make your car safe

Even if it is only a minor collision, under the law you have to stop. Failing to do so is an offence under the Road Traffic Act. 

Make sure your car’s engine is switched off and, if you can, turn your hazard warning lights on to alert other drivers to your presence.

2. Call the emergency services

If anyone has been injured in the car accident you should call the police (and an ambulance, if necessary) as soon as possible using either 999 or 101.

You should also call the police if the car accident is blocking the road.

3. Exchange details with anyone else involved

If you are involved in a car accident then you must give your name and address to any other parties that were involved. Even if the other party is not there – for example if you hit a parked car – you should leave your contact details on the windscreen.

You should also collect information from drivers, passengers and witnesses. Get names, addresses and car insurance details and try to find out whether they are the registered owner of the vehicle. If not, find out who is.

Which? advises that you should ‘avoid saying sorry or accepting blame for the accident until you know precisely what happened as it could count against you later on.’

You have to report a car accident to the police within 24 hours. If you don’t, you could face a fine, penalty points or even disqualification. If someone leaves the scene of an accident without leaving their details you should call 999 immediately.

4. Collect details from the scene of the accident

As well as contact details of other parties you should also try and obtain other details that relate to the accident. Write down the registration number, make and model of any cars that are involved as well as the time and date of the crash.

Keep a note of the weather conditions at the time of the accident and draw a sketch of the positions of the vehicles involved. You can also use a camera or your phone to take pictures of the incident.

5. Tell your insurer

Tell your insurer about the car accident as soon as you can. There will be a time limit in your policy and failure to act within this period could invalidate your cover. This could be as short as a few days.

You will need to give your insurance company details of the other party/parties involved and as much detail about the accident as you can.

You should always inform your car insurance company about an accident even if you’re not intending making a claim.

What happens if your car is ‘written off’?

If your insurance company believes that repairing your car after an accident is uneconomical, it may be ‘written off’. A vehicle is treated as a ‘total loss’ – sometimes called a ‘write-off’ - if your insurance company doesn’t believe it is worth repairing the car.

This doesn't mean that the repair costs have to be more than your vehicle is worth. Often, an insurance company will say that any cost that exceeds around 50 per cent of the value is considered not to be worth undertaking.

Your insurance company will offer you a settlement based on the value of the car. In some cases you can take the settlement and pay for the car to be repaired if the damage is not too serious and it is financially viable.

What happens to your car insurance after an accident

If you have been involved in an accident then it is likely that your car insurance premiums will rise on your next renewal. And, this can also be the case even if the accident wasn’t your fault and you don’t make a claim on your own insurance policy.

If you’re involved in a accident that isn’t your fault and the other driver’s insurer accepts liability, you can claim on the other driver’s insurance policy. However, you are still obliged to report this accident to your own insurer. That means that your insurer will know you have been in an accident and may increase your premium.

Will Thomas from a leading car insurance comparison website says: “Some insurers data shows that drivers involved in non-fault accidents are more likely to be involved in an accident that is their fault in the next few years. This is why if you’re involved in a non-fault accident your car insurance premium may rise at renewal time.”

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