This can prove to be something of a headache in a pile-up. From an insurance perspective, if you rear-end the car in front of you, then you are liable, even if you’ve managed to stop in time and only collided because you were shunted from behind yourself.
That is why it is vital, when you’re taking stock of the situation, that you inform the police immediately (once you’ve asked for an ambulance, if necessary) and then get the names, numbers and insurance details of as many people and witnesses as you can.
If possible, also take photos of the damage – this will help insurers sort through the batch of claims generated by the incident.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5Live, Malcolm Tarling of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said: “If you’re in the middle of a multi-car pile-up there’s very little you can actually do, it’s a horrendous situation to be in.
“From an insurance perspective, the priority will be dealing with claims as quickly as possible. If you’ve got comprehensive insurance you’ll be covered on your own policy. If you’ve got third party fire & theft and your vehicle is damaged the situation may be a bit trickier because you’ll have to establish that the person who caused the damage was liable. What will happen here is that the police will be carrying out an investigation as to the cause of the incident.”
Establishing liability within the chain of accidents is important as it could impact each driver’s no claims discount if they are determined to be ‘at fault’. If you are not at fault in any regard, your outlay should be limited to paying the excess of your policy.
Even if you aren’t going to claim, it’s important that you tell your insurers about your involvement in such an accident. Malcolm Tarling added: “If you’ve suffered personal injury, even if you don’t think it’s too bad, make sure your insurance company knows and notify them of your involvement in the incident, even if you don’t wish to claim.”
Driving in fog
Driving in fog is a common cause of pile-ups. It’s vital that, if you’re caught in such conditions, you adjust your driving style accordingly, so here’s what to do if the fog thickens while you’re on the road…
When visibility is reduced to less than 100metres – which is roughly the length of a football pitch –you must use your headlights. In fog, you should use dipped headlights and it’s a good idea to also use your wipers and demisters to make sure the screen is kept clear.
Using fog lights isn’t mandatory but you should make sure you put them on –remembering to turn them off when visibility improves – as insurers might not pay out if you’re involved in an accident and it was proven you didn’t have any fog lamps on.
When fog descends it can massively reduce visibility in a matter of seconds so you should adjust your speed accordingly, keep your distance from the cars around and be extra vigilant.
To maintain a safe distance, use the three second rule: choose a fixed point that is even with the car in front of you and, once the car in front has passed it, count to three (One sec sec, two sec sec, three sec sec). If you reach the point before you finish counting, you’re too close.
If there is a car you feel is driving too close behind you, don’t accelerate away from it as this will just put you closer to the car in front and increase the risk of you going into the back of it. You could pop your hazard warning lights on for a couple of beats and hope the driver behind gets the message.
Don’t tail the lights of the car in front, this can give you a false sense of security – just keep your mind clear and on the road: the key to driving safely in fog is to keep your concentration at all times.