What to do if you are Involved in a Road Traffic Accident

Being involved in a road traffic collision can be traumatic and confusing, but it is important to take the right actions to protect yourself legally and make sure you are able to claim any compensation you may be entitled to.

This guide is intended to provide a quick reference for some of the main practical things you will need to do as soon as possible after being involved in a car accident.

Legally, when you are involved in a road traffic accident you are required to:

  1. Stop and stay at the scene for a reasonable time.
  2. Give your vehicle registration number, your name and address, and obtain those of the other party.
  3. If you do not exchange those details at the scene, you must report the accident at a police station or to a police officer as soon as you can and in any case within 24 hours.

In addition to the above it is advisable that you:

  1. Take pictures or Draw a quick sketch of the accident scene, position of vehicles, location, road surface and damaged vehicles, noting skid marks or other marks and debris on the road.
  2. Obtain the name and address of the other party or parties involved in the accident and the registration numbers of their vehicles (don’t rely on them to give you the registration number of their vehicle).
  3. Jot down the colour, registration and make of the vehicle and the number of passengers.
  4. If possible, take photographs of the scene and vehicles.
  5. Obtain names and addresses of any witnesses.
  6. If you have been involved in a hit and run accident, call the Police immediately. A hit and run - or untraced driver - does not necessarily mean where the vehicle fails to stop. Even if the driver stops, assesses the circumstances and then disappears that too is categorised as an untraced driver.
  7. Do get medically examined. Make an appointment to see your GP or, go to casualty.
  8. Keep all receipts for expenses and date of appointments.

Following these additional steps can be crucial if you are later called as a witness if the case goes to court or if you need to make a compensation claim.

Your questions answered about road traffic accidents

Can a passenger be a witness to a car accident?

While a passenger in a car involved in a road traffic accident can be a witness to the accident, they will not be treated as an independent witness. This means that while their testimony will be considered and may be used in court proceedings, the fact they were connected to the accident will be considered.

It is worth bearing in mind that the situation will normally be different if the passenger knows the driver of the vehicle they were traveling in compared to if they were a passenger in a taxi or other type of ride-sharing vehicle.

What are the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident?

There are serious penalties for failing to stop at, or prematurely leaving, the scene of an accident and thus failing to meet you legal duty as outlined above.

These penalties can include:

  • 5-10 penalty points on your licence
  • A fine of up to £5,000
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • Disqualification from driving for a fixed period

Is there a time limit to claim for a car accident?

As with most personal injury claims, there is usually a 3-year time limit to make a compensation claim for injuries sustained during a road traffic accident.  However, if you only become aware of your injuries later, the 3-year time limit may apply from this time instead.

To ensure you do not miss out on the chance to claim any compensation you may be entitled to, it is strongly recommended to speak to a specialist road traffic accident claims solicitor as soon as possible.

How much can you claim for a car accident?

The amount you can claim for injuries sustained during a car accident will vary significantly depending on how serious the injuries are and what impact they have on your life. It is worth speaking with a specialist car accident claims solicitor as soon as possible so you have a clear idea how much you may be able to claim.

How long does it take to get compensation after a car accident?

How long a road traffic accident claim will take to reach a settlement will depend on various factors, including whether the other party admits liability and the value of the claim.

“Low value” claims (i.e. those valued under £25,000) can often be resolved in around 4-9 months using the government’s ‘Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents’. This places the emphasis on agreeing a settlement between both claimant and defendant without the need for court action. This relies on negotiation and non-confrontational dispute resolution methods, such as mediation.

For higher value claims, there is a different process, known as the ‘Pre-Action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims’. These claims may take longer to resolve, again depending on whether the defendant admits liability and offers an acceptable settlement. It is not unusual for higher value claims to take 1-2 years or even longer to resolve.

Do you have to go to court to claim car accident compensation?

In most cases, car accident compensation claims can be resolved using one of the pre-action protocols mentioned above. This means there is usually no need for the claimant to go to court to secure compensation.

However, if the matter cannot be resolved through the relevant pre-action protocol, court action may be required to resolve the matter. In this case you likely will need to attend court to achieve a settlement.

Start a road traffic accident claim today

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident and want to explore the possibility of claiming compensation, contact your local Graham Evans & Partners office or use the contact form at the top of the page to request a call back.