What to do after a car accident

Car accidents are an upsetting experience, but there are certain things you need to do immediately after having one. Here are the steps you must take.

What to do when you have a car accident

A car crash is one of the worst things you can experience on the road. From damage to your car to possible injuries to your person – or to others – it’s an experience we all hope to avoid.

Unlike many shocking and traumatic events, though, there’s a to-do list to follow immediately after a car accident. Here’s our step-by-step guide.

Always stop

What to do when you have a car accident

Failing to stop after a collision is illegal. If you drive away, you could wind up with a six-month prison sentence or a £5,000 fine.

Stop and turn off the engine – given the car could be unsafe to drive – but switch the hazard lights on.

If you have a warning triangle, place it to the side of the incident where cars are approaching. Be careful not risk your own safety by standing in the road.

Also, as one reader points out in the comments below, don’t use a warning triangle on the motorway – you’ll be breaking the Highway Code if you do. 

Check the people involved

It’s a courtesy as much as a necessity, but speak to everyone involved and check they are OK.

You’ll also want to get an impression of the other driver, if one is involved. Try to assess whether they may be under the influence of drink or drugs.

Use your mobile phone to call the relevant emergency services if needed, be it police or ambulance, and don’t be afraid to flag down another motorist for help.

Assess the damage

What to do when you have a car accident

Once you have dealt with the people, check over the vehicles. Make a note of all the damage caused, including inside the cars (if an airbag has deployed, for example).

You’ll also want to check whether any personal items, including clothes, have been damaged by the incident. Take photos if you can.

Note down details of the other car, too – including the make, model, registration number and colour.

Also write down the location, weather conditions and time of the accident.

Exchange details

What to do when you have a car crash

Swap phone, address and insurance details with the other driver involved.

Note down the names of everyone involved, including witnesses and the ID numbers of emergency services personnel on the scene.

As an aside, it’s a good idea to keep a notepad in your car for such situations, although the notes function on your phone will also do the job.

Tell your insurer about the accident

What to do when you have a car accident

As soon as is convenient, preferably at the scene, inform your insurance company about what has happened. You don’t have to go through it all in the moment, just let them know.

When the time comes to talk through the accident more fully, be sure to have your insurance documents to hand.

If the accident happens outside your insurance company’s operational hours, you should be able to call a recovery line for assistance.


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Motoring Research team
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  1. Warning triangles must not be used on motorways. I found this out only recently. Initially I was surprised, but it makes sense when you think about it…. HIGHWAY CODE RULE 275 includes the statement “Never attempt to place a warning triangle on a motorway”

  2. Thank you for the advice that right after you get in an accident turn off the car and turn on the hazards. About a week ago, I was talking to my sister, and she mentioned that she is buying her first car, and she is a little worried about being prepared if anything happened. I will have to tell her your tips and help her look into auto accident treatment centers in case anyone was injured.


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