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Car Accident? Just don’t panic!

by Aneka Shoukat, Trainee Solicitor, Shire Solicitors

It’s something we all dread but what should you do when you’ve been involved in a car accident? One thing not to do is panic. Its human instinct to panic when something unexpected occurs but this is the worst way to react. The other party will prey on your panic and cause you to not take the appropriate action. The most important thing to do in this situation is to remain calm and think rationally. The below will inform you step by step what to do and the potential pitfalls you may face.

The first thing to do is to stop your car as soon as you can. Stop your car in a safe area if possible. Once you have done this, you must exchange details with the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident. Even if the other party admits fault straight away ensure you exchange full names, addresses and contact numbers with the driver. Other information you will need is vehicle registration numbers and insurance company details and policy numbers. All this information will be required to deal with any claims you make. This also ensures you are not provided with false information.

In these situations there is one piece of advice which will hold you in good stead is to protect yourself. The other party may admit fault to you at the time of the accident, however they may later state that you were the cause of the accident. Therefore it is crucial you obtain as many details as you can. The other party will be relying on you to panic and forget to obtain this information. The other party may provide you with a false name or address. Therefore we recommend asking the other party for ID such as a driving licence. This will confirm they are telling the truth and if they refuse to do so then alarm bells should start ringing.

Dealing with claims you may make against the other party, often the most crucial piece of evidence will be the witness statements of independent third parties who witnessed the accident. It is vital in cases where liability may be disputed that you have independent third parties who will corroborate your version of events. You should approach the potential witnesses and confirm they are willing to provide a statement in support. Once they confirm they are happy to do so then take down their names and contact details. You can then provide this information to your solicitor who will contact the witnesses on your behalf to obtain a full witness statement from them.

Ensure you take pictures of the damage caused to both vehicles and of the surrounding area. This may be used as evidence to show which party caused the accident. Sometimes there will be minor damage caused to the vehicles; however the other driver may then produce pictures showing extensive damage and state that you caused them. Therefore in order to protect yourself you should take pictures showing the actual damage however minor it may be. The other driver may state he does not wish to make a claim and that he will not pursue the matter, however it is important to note that there is a three year limitation rule in which a person can claim against you. Therefore you may get a letter from a solicitor a year or even two years later. Drawing a sketch of the scene of the accident is also helpful. Note down the vehicle positions, collision points and the road names.

Not only should you take pictures of the vehicle damage but you should take pictures of the driver and the passengers. This will ensure no other “passengers” suddenly appear and want to claim against you. You may find there was only one driver and one passenger but five people have put a claim against you. Therefore taking pictures of the driver and passengers will ensure this does not happen.

Another key step which most forget to do is to check if you can see any CCTV cameras around the area where the accident occurred. For example if you notice a camera outside a shop then approach the owner of the shop and ask if their CCTV camera may have recorded the accident. The CCTV can be used as evidence for any potential claims and again may be a vital piece of evidence showing who caused the accident. If there are any cameras which are owned by the local authority then you may also approach them and request to see the footage.

There may be instances where the emergency services will need to be contacted. For example when someone has been seriously injured and requires immediate medical attention. There are also situations where the other driver involved in the accident fails to stop and exchange details. You must call the police and inform them of this as this is a criminal offence under the Road Traffic Act. If you are suspicious that the other party is not telling the truth about their identity then you should contact the police and raise your concerns with them.

You must inform your insurer immediately if you’ve been involved in an accident. You can call your insurer to advise them of this but you should also send them a letter telling them what’s happened. You may also have a condition in your insurance policy that states you have to report any accidents to your insurance company within a reasonable time, even if you don’t want to claim yourself.

Taking these simple steps in a stressful situation will help you greatly if you wish to make a claim against the other party involved in a car accident.

Aneka Shoukat aneka@shiresolicitors.co.uk
Trainee Solicitor, Shire Solicitors, Bradford, BD1 3AZ 01274 727373

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