What do I need to know if I am in a road traffic accident?




You’ve had the misfortune of being involved in a road traffic accident. You’ve stopped your vehicle, turned off the engine, switched on the hazard warning lights and assessed whether or not anyone has been injured (in which case, of course, you need to call the emergency services straight away).

If anyone has been injured, a vehicle or other property damaged or an animal was killed or injured, the law requires you to stop in order for certain information to be exchanged.

The Thames Valley Police point out that the accident may have occurred on a public road or some other public space, including some carparks.

What information?

The principal piece of information you need – and which the law requires any driver involved to give – is motor insurance details. If these are not exchanged at the scene of the accident, the driver is required by law to visit a police station within 24 hours, report the accident, and produce a copy of the relevant certificate of motor insurance.

What you also need to know may be summed up very simply by asking yourself exactly what happened – what caused the road traffic accident, whom was involved and what were the nature and extent of any damage or injuries sustained.

It is on the basis of the information that you collect in this way that liability for the accident is going to be established. On the basis of another’s liability, you may then be entitled to financial compensation. This is designed to cover the cost of repairs or replacement of your car or other property and to compensate you for any injuries you sustained. Whilst your insurance company is likely to pursue any claim for damage to your vehicle or other property, a personal injury solicitor may be instructed to pursue the potentially more complicated claim for personal injury.

What you need to know

The following is a synopsis of the facts and circumstances you need to know and record:

  • the date and time of the accident;
  • the make, model and registration number of all vehicles involved in the accident;
  • the contact addresses, name and insurance details of anyone involved;
  • the direction in which vehicles were travelling before the accident and the angles at which they collided – either with each other or with other property;
  • the overall apparent condition of the vehicles involved – such as whether any had bald tyres, broken or missing wing mirrors or obvious patches of rust;
  • areas of and the extent of damage to the vehicles involved;
  • in addition to your written note of these details, also do a quick sketch of the scene before and after the accident – if only to job your memory, so that you are able to make a more elaborate sketch plan once you get home;
  • your sketch also needs to show any road markings, such as stop signs, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, speed limit notices or double white lines indicating no overtaking; and
  • the names and contact details of any witnesses – bearing in mind that those you approach are under no legal compulsion to provide them – so that your insurers of personal injury lawyers might get in touch with them at a later date.

You might want to use this as your checklist of the information and details you need to gather after having been involved in a road traffic accident.

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