No one expects to be involved in a car accident. But it can happen in the blink of an eye – whether it's your fault or someone else's.
Most people say they know what to do next, until it happens to them. Bookmark this page with our help guide, and be prepared for the worst.
If you have AA Car Insurance, you can jump to our Accident Assist guide for help.
Immediately after the accident
- Stop the car as soon as possible – it's an offence not to do so.
- Turn off the engine.
- Switch the hazard lights on.
- Check for any injuries to yourself or your passengers.
- If it's a minor collision and there are no injuries, make a note of it just in case the other people later try to claim for an injury.
- Call the police and an ambulance immediately if anyone is hurt or if the road is blocked.
- Try to remain as calm as possible – its normal to be shaken after an accident, take a few deep breaths and try to take stock of the situation the best you can. And don't lose your temper.
- Don't apologise or admit responsibility for the accident until you're completely aware of what happened – this can protect you from liability if it wasn't your fault.
When should I call the police?
- If the other driver or drivers leave the scene without giving details.
- If you think the other driver has no insurance or is under the influence of drink or drugs.
- If you suspect that the other driver caused the collision deliberately.
Tell the police about the accident within 24 hours – if you don't you may be given a fine, points on your licence, or a disqualification from driving.
Exchange motoring details
- Share your name and address with everyone involved if the accident caused damage or injury – the law says you must do this.
- Swap insurance information and details with the other driver(s).
- Take down details of any other passengers and witnesses to the accident.
- Try to find out if the other driver is the registered owner of the vehicle, if they are not, find out who the owner is and get that information too (for instance it might be a company car).
- If a foreign lorry is involved, get the numbers on both the lorry and its trailer, sometimes they are different. Its also a good idea to get the name of the company if its painted on the lorry.
What should I record at the accident scene?
- The make, model, colour, and number plate of the vehicles involved in the accident or take pictures of them.
- The time and date of the crash.
- The driving conditions, including the weather, lighting, and road quality (such as road markings, whether its wet or muddy, repair of the road surface).
- What sort of damage was caused to the vehicles and where – nearside front wing and door (nearside is the left side of your car, offside is the drivers side).
- Any injuries to drivers, passengers, or pedestrians.
- The names and contact details of any witnesses.
- Use your phone to take pictures of the scene, the positions of the cars involved, and damage to the cars.
If no one else is involved in the accident, for example you caused damage to private property or a parked car, you should leave your details – for instance a note where the owner can see it. And honesty pays. If a witness or CCTV camera saw you and noted your car number but you drove off, you could be in serious trouble.
Making a claim
Phone your insurance company as soon as possible – ideally at the time of the accident. They'll ask for:
- Your policy number or information to identify you, such as your post code and car registration number.
- The registration number of the cars involved.
- The driver's name, address and phone number.
- The driver's insurance details if you have them.
If you have AA Car Insurance, go to our Accident Assist guide for the next step.
Find out more
What if I don't claim?
Still tell your insurer about the accident, because the other driver may try to make a claim without you knowing. You may choose not to claim:
- To keep your no claims discount intact, if you don't have a 'protected no claims discount'.
- If you decide to pay for the repairs yourself.
These are people who arrange accidents in order to make a fraudulent insurance claim.
They may do this by braking unexpectedly, causing you to go into the back of their car, or by flashing their lights to indicate you're free to go before purposely crashing into you. They may also take out their brake light bulbs, giving you no warning when they hit the brakes in front of you, and making it more likely you will crash into them.
Crash-for-cash claimants will usually blame you for the accident and give you their insurance information, which is sometimes written out ready on a bit of paper.
A few weeks after this happens, you might receive a letter from your insurance company highlighting the damage from the accident – the claims they make can be exaggerated (sometimes including recovery vehicle, car hire, or whiplash injuries to others that haven't occurred) to maximise the money they try to win back.
You'll be less likely to be involved in such a scam if you keep your eyes open and:
- Be especially careful in stop to start traffic, at merging junctions and roundabouts.
- Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front.
- Be wary of erratic driving behaviour such as slowing for no reason.
- Take note if their brake lights don't seem to be working and increase your distance.
Some drivers install dash-cams to show their innocence against a crash-for-cash claim. These can be very helpful in establishing proof of a crash-for-cash claim.
Car safety technology may help to reduce the risk of having a car accident – leaving you feeling safer while you drive. Cars fitted with certain types of safety technology will usually have a lower insurance group than a similar car not so equipped, which can attract a lower premium.
Many cars already come with audible and visual sensors when maneuvering your car in tight spaces or automatic parallel parking. You can check with your insurance company to see if they'll offer additional discount for such equipment. Explore below a few more safety tech features:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – the brakes are automatically applied if sensors on the car detect that you're going to have a crash, helping to either stop or decrease the severity of the accident.
- Adaptive cruise control – the car automatically reduces its set speed if the traffic ahead is travelling more slowly than you.
- Dashboard cameras – these record the traffic ahead of (and, optionally, behind) you, which can help prevent crash-for-cash claimants from making fraudulent insurance claims or provide evidence of what happened when you have to make a claim.
- Lane departure warning system – sensors or cameras pick up your cars position on the road and warn you if you're swaying out of your lane.
- eCall – this is a system that will automatically call emergency services in the event of a crash anywhere in Europe. It's a legal requirement for new car models from 31 March 2018, and may be fitted by manufacturers to existing models.
Accidents are sometimes hard to avoid regardless of how carefully you drive. Keeping this post-accident checklist ready in the car or bookmarked on your phone will help when you make a claim.Learn more about the legal obligations after a car accident or explore the different levels of car insurance cover we offer.
Updated 27 November 2020