What to Do If You Have a Car Accident in the UK

If you're unfortunate enough to be involved in a car accident, it can be an extremely stressful experience. However, being prepared to tackle difficulties can help you prevent a bad situation from getting worse. Check through this guide to quickly figure out what you need to do in case you ever find yourself in a bad situation on the road.

What to do immediately after a car accident

Follow these steps immediately after the accident:

  • Stop the car and pull over safely when you can, and remain calm.
  • Turn off the engine.
  • Switch on the hazard lights (the button on your dashboard with two red triangles or two white triangles on a red background).
  • Check for any injury to yourself or your passengers as well as others involved in the accident.
  • Call an ambulance immediately if anyone is seriously injured.
  • Call the police. If there is no emergency, dial 101. If immediate assistance is needed, dial 999 (see below).
  • Get all the passengers out of the vehicle and make sure everyone is safe.
  • Exchange details with the other driver, passengers and any witnesses.

What NOT to do immediately after a car accident

There are certain things you should try to avoid doing after being involved in a car accident:

  • No matter how minor the accident is, do not drive off. You have to stop, and failing to do so is a crime under the Road Traffic Act.
  • Do not admit responsibility even if you think you’re at fault. Admitting a fault without the proper details can make things difficult later on.
  • Do not apologise even if you think you’re partially responsible. This can prevent you from claiming insurance.
  • Do not lose your temper. Call the police immediately if you think the situation is getting heated.

Calling the police

You must always call the police in the case of a car accident, as the police need to be informed of any accidents with 24 hours. Failing to do so can get you a fine and some points off your licence. However, calling 999 is not always necessary. If the accident is minor and no one is injured, call the police on 101 (the non-emergency number).

You should dial 999 if:

  • Anyone is injured
  • The accident is blocking the road
  • It’s a case of hit and run i.e. the other driver didn’t stop to exchange information with you
  • You suspect that the other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • You suspect that you’re a victim of a “crash-for-cash” scam, meaning the other driver caused the accident intentionally to cash in on fraudulent claims
  • The offending driver is not insured

Collecting information at the scene

There’s some key information you need to gather at the scene of an accident. Use this checklist and make sure you’ve got:

  • The registration numbers of all vehicles involved.
  • Each vehicle’s colour, make and model.
  • A description of the weather conditions, plus anything unusual you notice about the road quality or lighting.
  • A list of damage to the vehicles, including exactly what sort of damage the vehicles have and where.
  • Any injuries sustained by pedestrians, drivers and passengers.
  • Names, contact details and insurance information of those involved in the accident (see below), as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses.
  • Extensive photographs to show the position of the vehicles and the damage caused.

Exchanging details

If you’re in an accident, you’re legally obligated to provide relevant details to anyone involved. Exchange the following information with other drivers and passengers:

  • Name and address
  • Insurance details, including company and policy number
  • Try to find out who the other car is registered to. In some circumstances this may not be the person driving – for example, it may be a company car.
  • If a foreign lorry is involved, get the details of the lorry and the trailer. Note down which company the lorry belongs to, if possible.

If you’re in a car accident involving a parked vehicle, leave your information on the windshield. Failing to do so can get you in serious trouble with the police. However, do not apologise or claim responsibility.

Informing your insurance company

You may be contractually obligated to inform your insurer about every accident. If you’re making a claim, call them as soon as possible. The amount of time you have to inform them about an accident will be written in your policy.

You may choose not to make a claim if:

  • You want to retain your no claims bonus and save yourself from higher premiums during renewal
  • You want to repair the car yourself

Even if you’re not claiming a bonus for damages, inform your insurer. This is because the other driver may try to make a claim without you knowing. Details you need to provide your insurer include:

  • Your policy number
  • Registration details of your car and other cars involved
  • The other driver’s name, address and phone number
  • The other driver’s insurance details

View our handy guide on car insurance A-Z to understand all of the tricky jargon.

Car safety technology

Although accidents are sometimes unavoidable, you can take additional precautions by kitting out your car with extra safety equipment. Doing so can also help you save premiums on insurance. Some useful features you can think about adding include:

  • Autonomous emergency braking (AEB). This automatically stops the car if there’s an impeding collision due to an obstruction (like passengers, or other cars that are too close by).
  • Adaptive cruise control. The car automatically reduces the set speed based on the car ahead of you.
  • Lane departure warning system. This sensor will pick up your car’s position on the road and warn you if you’re swaying out of lane.
  • Dash cams. Dashboard cameras are a useful tool to provide evidence when you’re making a claim. They can also prevent you from being the victim of a “crash-for-cash” scam.

Although many drivers think they’re fully prepared to deal with emergencies, shock and injury from an accident can easily affect your decision making. Bookmark this page so you always have it handy in case of a mishap. For more information on all things cars, check out the Gumtree advice hub.

Latest advice articles

Latest best of articles