If you are unfortunate enough to have a car accident, it is important to gather as much information as possible from the outset. This will assist if you decide to make a claim and will help your insurance company and solicitor obtain the best possible outcome at a later date.
If you have been injured or are in a state of shock, you may not be able to get all the information you need at the time, but there is still valuable information you can obtain by returning to the scene of the accident later.
Reporting an accident to the police
- If damage has been caused to another person or another person’s property, you must stop and exchange full details including the name and address of the drivers (and vehicle owners if different). If a person has suffered injury the accident must be reported to the police “as soon as reasonably practicable” but in any event within 24 hours;
- Before you leave your vehicle, try to remain calm, ensure your engine is switched off, put your hazard lights on to warn other drivers of your presence and check it is safe to step out of your vehicle before going to speak to anyone else. This is especially important if the accident occurred on a motorway or a busy road;
- You should always call the police to notify them of the accident, although it is unlikely they will attend unless the accident is blocking the road or someone has been seriously injured; if there are injured people then you should call an ambulance.
While you are still at the accident scene – and as long as it is safe to do so – you should make a note of the following information:
- Time, date and accident location;
- Contact details including names, addresses and telephone numbers of all the drivers, passengers, witnesses and any pedestrians involved. If anyone was driving as part of his or her job, take note of the employer’s details. It may also be worth taking down a description of the driver and any distinguishing features;
- Vehicle details including make, model, registration number, colour and the number of passengers in each vehicle;
- Insurance details for the driver of the other vehicle;
- Whether any of the drivers were using headlights or indicators;
- Weather, visibility and lighting conditions, including street lighting;
- Name, ID (or ‘collar’) number and force details of any police officer attending and other emergency services’ details, if appropriate;
- Areas of damage to each vehicle involved;
- Any injuries that people may have sustained, and finally:
- If you have a camera or mobile phone camera, take photographs of the accident scene and position of vehicles, if you can do so without endangering yourself or anyone else.
What to note down after the accident
If you don’t have time at the scene, then it may be useful to return to the accident location soon after to jot down the following information:
- A full description of what happened, including sketches of the vehicles’ positions;
- The type of road;
- A description of the scene of the accident, including relevant road markings, signals and obstructions, for example: “there was a skip outside the property at road junction.”
Reporting the incident
Make sure you tell your insurer about the accident as soon as you can. Failure to do so within the time period set out in your policy may invalidate your cover, leaving you with a big bill to pay. Always tell your car insurance company that you have had an accident, even if you don’t want to make a claim.
If you suffered an injury in the accident, notify your insurance company and ask to be put in touch with a solicitor or, if you prefer, you can choose your own solicitor to deal with your personal injury claim. Before you instruct a solicitor, you should always check with your insurance company about whether you are able to do so under the terms of your policy.
We are accredited solicitors on many insurance companies’ nominated panels. If you require any legal assistance as a result of a car accident, contact Lyons Davidson directly or, alternatively, ask your insurance company to put you in touch with us.