Car crashes and serious injuries – the next steps
Following the right legal steps after being injured in a car crash can help you to achieve the best possible outcome, says Hugh Potter, Senior Partner at Potter Rees Dolan Serious Injury Solicitors.
Being involved in a road traffic collision is distressing for all involved – especially when the incident results in a serious injury. In the stress that follows an incident, it can be difficult to know exactly what you should do to make sure your legal rights are protected.
What to do immediately after the collision
Car crashes can be extremely disorienting and traumatic, especially if it results in a serious injury. If you can, try to:
- stop your car, switch off the engine and turn on the hazard lights;
- check for any injuries to yourself or your passengers, and call an ambulance as soon as you can if anyone needs medical attention.
- exchange insurance information with the other driver or drivers involved; and
- call the police if necessary. This may be required if the road is blocked, for example, or if the other driver fails to stop or provide insurance information.
It is also best to gather as much information from the scene of the incident as you can, including:
- the names, addresses and contact details of any relevant drivers/motorcyclists/cyclists, passengers and, importantly, any witnesses;
- the registration numbers, colour, make and model of all relevant vehicles;
- the time and date of the crash;
- the amount and location of damage sustained to the vehicles involved;
- the location of any CCTV cameras that may have captured the collision, or the events leading up to it or afterwards;
- the driving conditions, including the weather, lighting and road surface quality;
- the positions of the vehicles involved; and
- the name of any police officer attending and the police's traffic case reference number.
If you have suffered a serious injury you may not be able to gather this information yourself, so do your best to get others to do it for you.
Avoid apologising or accepting blame for the incident, as this could be used against you at a later date – even if the situation wasn’t your fault. Your solicitor will advise you about making a formal statement, and it will help to write down what you think happened as soon as you can, making sure to record when you wrote your account.
Contacting the right people
If you’ve been involved in a crash, you must officially report the incident.
This means getting in contact with your insurance provider as soon as you can and providing all the details of the collision, which will also help them if the other driver attempts to make a claim. This is necessary even for minor road traffic collisions, or where the driver is not looking to make a claim against you; failing to notify your insurer within the time limit specified in your policy may result in your insurance being invalidated, leading to needless (and sometimes substantial) financial penalties.
Additionally, you must report the incident to the police if you were unable at the scene, within 24 hours at the latest. This will ensure that your name and address can be provided to anyone who might have reasonable grounds for asking for those details, including the owner of any property that you might have damaged in the collision.
If you were potentially responsible for causing an injury to another person, you must report the crash and produce your car insurance certificate to the police, or anyone who might reasonably ask to see it. If you were unable to do so immediately, you’ll need to contact the police within 24 hours and produce your car insurance certificate within seven days of the incident.
It’s important to note that this report needs to be made to a police officer in person or at a police station, and cannot be done over the phone. Failure to follow any of these reporting processes correctly could result in you being charged with motor offences and facing a fine.
Brake publishes information and advice for bereaved families and friends following a death on the road. This guidance contains information on what happens after a crash, practical issues, investigations and criminal charges, court cases, claiming compensation, and useful organisations. Click here to find out more.