What to do if you’re in a car accident

Car crash

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Having a crash is every driver’s worst nightmare. But assuming you’re not seriously injured, there are steps you can take to ensure a speedy road to recovery, for both you and your car.


First, try to stay calm. Safety should be the priority, so take a moment to review the situation and work out what needs to be done to keep everyone out of danger. Turn off your engine if it is still running, and put on your hazard lights to warn approaching drivers. If it is safe to leave your vehicle and get to the pavement or another refuge, do so.

Motorway crashes

If you’re on a motorway, your actions following a crash will largely be determined by which lane you end up in (and again presuming you’re able to walk):

  • If you’re in the nearside lane, closest to the hard shoulder, try to manoeuvre your car onto the hard shoulder. If your car won’t move, leave the car by the passenger door (or whichever door is closest to the hard shoulder) and then climb over the safety barrier if possible
  • If you’re in a centre lane, with moving lanes of traffic either side, stay in your car if possible. Only proceed to the hard shoulder or central reservation if traffic is stationary
  • If you’re in the outside, overtaking lane, consider leaving your car by the door nearest the reservation and climbing over the barrier if possible. Position yourself to the front of your vehicle, and do not attempt to cross either carriageway while traffic is moving
  • Once you have left your car, never return to it across lanes of moving traffic
  • Leave your keys in your car so that it is easier to move later (removing your keys will trigger the steering lock).

Emergency services

If you, any of your passengers, or anyone in another vehicle is injured, or your car is obstructing the road, contact the emergency services ask for an ambulance or the police, or both if necessary. If the accident involved another driver, don’t accept liability or apologise as this could work against you later on.

You will need to give your name and address to anyone else caught up in the accident, and you should take their contact details, including their car’s make, model, colour and registration, and their insurance details. If possible, take the name and contact details of any witnesses. If you haven’t called the police but are likely to make an insurance claim (or have one made against you), you will need to report the accident at a police station within 24 hours.

You will also have to take your certificate of insurance to the police station if you don’t have it with you at the scene of the accident.

Crucial information

There are several other bits of information you should try to collect at the crash scene, as these could make any insurance claim easier (it will also help keep things fresh in your mind in the event that there is a police investigation):

  • Time and date of the accident
  • A rough sketch of where the vehicles ended up
  • Anything that might have contributed to the crash, such as an animal running into the road
  • Weather conditions
  • A description of the damage to the cars involved.

Take as many photos with your phone as you can, as these can provide valuable evidence.

Contact your insurance company

Let your car insurance company know as soon as possible that you’ve been involved in an accident.


Most policies have a time limit that you have to notify your insurer within – failure to do this could mean your whole claim is invalidated. However, the time limit won’t apply if you’ve been in hospital recovering from your injuries. If that’s the case, then your insurer should consider this as a reasonable excuse for notifying them late.

If you want to cover the cost of any repairs yourself, perhaps because you want to protect your no claims bonus, you still need to let your insurer know that you’ve been in an accident. If you don’t, and they find out you have, then they may refuse to pay future claims. If you want to make a claim, the insurer will also for as many details as you can provide, which is where any photos and other information will come in handy.

They will also contact the insurance companies of the other people involved and resolve any claims they might have made, or claims you might want to make against them.

Beware scams!

Depending on the circumstances, don’t rule out the possibility that your car crash could have been deliberate. Criminals are increasingly causing crashes to make money, and now often demand money at the roadside. They do this by deliberately staging an accident and then extorting money from the victim in return for not involving insurers.

Often older drivers or young females driving on their own will be targeted, in the hope that they will hand over money more quickly. Never hand over cash at the roadside following an accident. Take the driver’s contact details and notify the police immediately, alerting them if you think you might have been the victim of a scam.

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