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How long do you have to report a car accident?

Many people are unsure of what the proper protocol is for reporting a car accident. The police should always be called for major accidents but collisions involving minor bumps and scrapes, are often left unreported. Failure to exchange details or to report the incident to the police, could however lead to future issues.

We explain the exact steps you should take when reporting an accident.

Who should report a car accident?

The Road Traffic Act (1988) states that anyone driving a motorised vehicle, including a car, van, motorbike or scooter, that is involved in a collision that results in damage or injury to another person, vehicle, property or animal (dogs, horses, cattle or sheep), are required to stop. They must also provide their vehicle registration, name and address to anyone ‘with reasonable grounds to be asking for those details.’

In most instances, this person will be the other driver or property owner. If you a driving a vehicle that you are not the owner of, you will need to hand over the vehicle owner details too.

If you fail to do this, you could face punishment including a fine or even a maximum prison sentence of up to six months.

Depending on the exact scenario of the incident you should:

  • Find a safe place stop: if the vehicle is drivable pull over into a safe place to stop, switch off the engine and turn on the hazard lights. It is against the law to drive off from the scene of an accident, no matter how minor the collision was or who was at fault.
  • Leave the vehicle: If you, your passengers and pets are safe to do so, leave the vehicle and go to a safe place.
  • Seek medical attention: If anyone is injured seek medical attention immediately. This may require calling an ambulance.
  • Accidents on a motorway: If you’ve been involved in a collision on the motorway, follow the same advice as above, but pull over and stop on the hard shoulder if possible. Animals should however be kept in the vehicle. If the situation is dangerous, pets should be kept under control at the side of the road.
    • If anyone is injured, you should call the emergency services. If there is a motorway SOS phone close by, call from this as it will make it easier for the authorities to find your exact location.
    • If it’s safe to exit the vehicle all passengers should get out and stand behind the crash barrier, maintaining a safe distance from the road, and wait for the emergency services to attend the scene.
  • Exchange details: Swap contact details, names, vehicle registration and address with the third party.
  • Do not admit fault: It is important to not admit fault or apologise for the accident at this stage, as this could be used as evidence against you when making a road traffic accident
  • Inform your insurer: No matter how major or minor the damage to your vehicle is you must report the accident to your insurer. Failure to do so may invalidate your policy.

What details do I need to exchange following an accident?

After being involved in a road traffic accident, you need to exchange the following details with the third party:

  • Name, address and contact details
  • Vehicle registration number
  • If the vehicle you have been driving belongs to someone else, you need to provide the owners contact details.
  • If someone has been injured, you must share your insurance policy details if someone at the scene of the incident has reasonable grounds to request it.
  • It is not legally required to share details of your car insurance with the third party if no one has been injured in the accident. However, sharing policy numbers could help to speed up the claims process. You may have suffered external injuries that aren’t visible at the time of the accident, so it is always worth sharing insurance details.

What is the time frame for reporting an accident?

All road traffic accidents are to be reported to the police within 24 hours of the incident taking place. You can call 101, the non-emergency police number to do this.

This includes providing the police with details of any damage done to buildings, parked cars, even when there were no other people involved.

It is also important to inform the police if you are left blocking the road as the result of a collision, or if you are suspicious that you have been the victim of a ‘crash for cash’ scam. There are cases when people deliberately crash into the car in front in order to make a fraudulent insurance claim.

If you have bumped a parked car and it isn’t possible to locate the vehicle owner, it is advisable to leave a note on the car windscreen, with your contact details, so that they are able to report any damages to their vehicle to their own insurer.

What other evidence should I provide?

When reporting an accident, it is also a good idea to make note of the following as this might act as evidence when making a claim:

  • Time and date of the incident.
  • Weather conditions.
  • Conditions of the road.
  • Contact details of any witnesses.
  • Photos of the scene of the crash and any visible injuries to yourself and passengers.
  • Provide dashcam footage of the accident if you have it.

How can I make a claim?

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident within the last three years, and have suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligent actions, it is likely that you will be eligible to make a claim.

To make a claim, it is recommended to seek legal advice as soon after the accident occurred as possible, whilst the details of the accident are still fresh to mind. You can contact True Solicitors via email, online enquiry form, phone or live chat to start the claims process. We will handle your road traffic accident claim on a no win, no fee basis.

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