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What to do after a car accident?

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Written by  Emma Lunn
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Reviewed by  Saarrah Mussa
6 min read
Updated: 22 Jan 2024

Only very few people get through their entire driving careers without being involved in an accident. So if you have had a car crash, try not to be too hard on yourself as it will happen to most drivers at some point. 

Whether you are involved in a minor bump or major pile-up, and whether it was your fault or not, it’s useful to know what you need to do in the aftermath of a car accident. 

Be prepared 

Firstly, make sure you have car insurance. It’s illegal to drive without at least third-party cover in the UK. Comprehensive insurance is much better as in the event of a crash that’s deemed to be your fault, this will cover damage to your car and your injuries as well as damage to other cars and other people. 

Keep a note of your insurance provider and policy number in your car - you’ll need this in the event of an accident. 

It may also be useful to keep a high-viz jacket and warning triangle in your car. Carrying a warning triangle is a legal requirement in most European countries (but not the UK). 

Many drivers install dash-cams in their cars as they can be useful when it comes to proving which driver is at fault in the event of an accident. 

car acciedent

What to do immediately after the accident 

If you collide with another vehicle, pedestrian, cyclist, or animal, it’s illegal to just drive away, so stop, turn off your engine, and turn your hazard lights on. 

Safety first, so make sure you and your passengers and the occupants of the other car (or pedestrian or cyclist) are safe and uninjured. Call an ambulance immediately by dialing 999 if anyone is hurt and administer first aid if applicable and you have appropriate first aid skills. 

Call the police if the road is blocked or obstructed, you feel in danger, or if the other driver appears to be under the influence of drink or drugs. 

Try to remain as calm as possible. It is important to be civil with the other driver and refrain from placing blame as well as admitting any blame and you can be found liable. That admission of responsibility and could further affect any insurance claim of the accident. 

Exchange details 

If the collision is only minor and there is no damage or injuries, it’s still worth swapping details with the other driver. You might discover later that your car is damaged or you have an injury. 

When swapping details, you should include: 

  • The name, address, and phone numbers of all drivers involved, passengers, and witnesses 

  • The insurance details of all relevant parties

  •  Vehicle registration numbers of all vehicles involved

  •  The registered keeper of the other vehicle (if it’s not the same as the driver) 

  • If the other vehicle is a lorry or van, the name of the company 

If you hit a parked car or someone else’s property and no one is around, you should leave a note with your details. It is illegal to drive off.  

When to call the police 

It’s not always necessary to call the police after a road traffic accident. But you should call them if: 

  • The other driver tries to leave the scene without exchanging details 

  • You suspect the other driver is uninsured, under the influence of drink or drugs or has deliberately caused the accident (i.e. in a ‘crash for cash’ scam) 

  • You feel in danger or threatened 

  • The road is blocked and you cannot safely move your car 

Take pictures and notes  

If it’s safe to do so, take pictures of the scene of the accident. The pictures should show:  

  • Where the cars were on the road 

  • The other car’s colour make, model and registration number 

  • Road conditions (i.e rain or snow) 

  • Damage to both cars 

You should also note down the following:  

  • Time and date of the accident 

  • Direction of travel of each car 

  • Weather conditions and lighting 

  • The road quality and markings (i.e. potholes, mud or obstructions) 

  • The obvious damage to each car and where it is located (i.e. driver or passenger side, front or rear) 

  • Details of any injuries 

Contact your insurer 

The terms and conditions of car insurance policies mean drivers have a duty to report all accidents they are involved in, regardless of whether they intend to make a claim.  So, contact your insurer as soon as is reasonably possible. This will normally be within 24 hours. There is some leeway on this - if you are taken to hospital it may not be possible to contact your insurer straight away.  When you make a claim, you’ll need to give your insurer details including: 

  • Your policy number 

  • Your personal details 

  • The details of any other parties involved (and their vehicles) 

  • The date, time, and location of the incident 

  • A crime reference number (if applicable) 

 If your car is undriveable after an accident, your insurer will normally arrange for it to be collected. However, the police may move your car first to clear the road.  

How insurance claims work 

Your insurer will liaise with the other driver’s insurance company.  

Depending on which driver was to blame for the collision, the claim will be classified as either at-fault or non-fault. If you’re at fault, your insurer will foot the bill for car repairs and injuries to all parties involved.  

If it’s a non-fault claim (the other driver’s fault), your insurer will aim to recoup your losses from the other driver’s insurer. 

You can read more about making a car insurance claim here

Frequently asked questions

Will I have to pay the excess?

Every car insurance will have an excess. This is the amount the policyholder will need to pay in the event of a claim. It can be anything from about £100 to £500.  

You will need to pay the excess if you’re at fault. 

You probably won’t need to pay the excess if the other driver is found to be at fault. Your insurer may waive it or it may claim it back from the other driver’s insurer. 

Will my insurance pay if the accident is my fault?

Yes, your insurance will pay if the accident is your fault. But what it will cover depends on what type of car insurance policy you have. 

If you have third party or third party fire and theft cover, your insurer will only cover damage to the other vehicle and injuries to third parties.  

If you have comprehensive cover it will also cover damage to your car and your injuries (and those of your passengers). 

Will I be sued if the accident is my fault?

If a car accident is your fault, the other driver will usually claim against your insurance. 

There’s rarely a need for car accident cases to go to court but some drivers might hire ‘no win no fee’ law firms to try and claim compensation for injuries or expenses such as lost wages. 

Will I lose money if the other driver is uninsured?

If you are in a collision with an uninsured driver or the other driver left the scene and cannot be identified, you will have to claim on your car insurance even if the accident wasn’t your fault. 

Your insurer will liaise with the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB). The MIB compensates drivers hit by uninsured drivers. This is funded via the insurance premiums of all law-abiding motorists. 

You can read more about uninsured drivers here

Do I need to report minor bumps to anyone?

You should report all accidents to your insurance company. If you don’t want to make a claim, make it clear the report is for “information-only”. 

Some drivers decide not to claim for minor bumps as they will lose their no-claims discount. If you don’t claim, you are free to get your car repaired wherever you want. 

What happens if my car is written off?

If your car is a write-off, it means the car is damaged to the point of being a total loss. This can mean it's no longer safe for the road or it might mean the cost of repairs is higher than your car’s value.  

Your insurer - not you - will declare your car a write-off. If this happens,  

ownership is transferred to your insurance provider, and it will pay you compensation designed to allow you to buy a replacement vehicle. You don’t necessarily need to accept your insurer’s first offer - you can negotiate if it seems too low. 

What happens if I am hit by an electric scooter?

Currently in the UK, it is illegal to ride a privately owned electric scooter on public roads. Only rented electric scooters ridden as part of various hire schemes are legal - and insured. 

If you have a collision with an electric scooter that results in damage to your car you may need to claim on your car insurance, even if it’s not your fault.  

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