This guide aims to help if:
- someone close to you has been killed in a road crash, or
- you are helping someone who has been bereaved.
Who writes this guide?
This guide is by the National Road Victim Service, which is run by the road safety charity Brake.
We are an independent service working in partnership with other services to care for your needs.
We offer emotional support and practical help and advice. We also help people seriously injured in road crashes.
call: 0808 8000 401
How to use this guide
You can use the contents on the previous pages to find out what this guide contains and go to the pages you need to read.
If the crash happened very recently, Section 1: What happens now? may be the most useful part to read first. This section gives information and advice on things that often happen in the first few days after a fatal crash.
The rest of the guide provides information and advice on other issues you may face at different times.
If you don't feel able to read this guide yourself, you can ask someone else to read it for you.
The National Road Victim Service produces other free guides that may be useful to you:
- Someone has died in a road crash (support book for children and their carers)
- Information and advice for bereaved families and friends following death on the road in Scotland
- Information and advice for bereaved families and friends following death on the road in Northern Ireland
- Serious injury in a road crash: Help and information for victims, and their family and friends
These guides are online at www.brake.org.uk/support-literature.
If you need a copy of any of these guides, call the National Road Victim Service on 0808 8000 401 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking after your own needs
Coping after a sudden and shocking bereavement can be very challenging. You, or others, may be suffering from significant shock and distress, and experiencing a range of emotions and reactions. Different people react in different ways at different times. You may feel exhausted.
It is important to look after your emotional and physical welfare, and, if you are part of a family, look after each other too. Remember to:
- eat regularly, and drink water or have comforting hot drinks
- stay warm, and get sleep when you can
- seek support, and support each other.
If you were also in the crash, and have minor injuries, it is important they are treated too. Make sure you receive any medical attention you need.
Coping with grief when someone you love is killed in a road crash
Brake has produced a short book about coping with grief when someone you love is killed in a road crash. This book aims to help you cope and protect your mental and physical wellbeing. It is based on the experiences of many people bereaved in a sudden or shocking way, and what helped them.
This book is online at www.brake.org.uk/support-literature.
If you need extra copies of the book for others, call the National Road Victim Service on 0808 8000 401 or email email@example.com. An audio version is also available.
Help for children and families
If a child or young person has also been bereaved in a road crash, it is important to provide the love and support they need.
Children’s needs are often the same as adults’ needs. They need to feel safe, supported, calm, informed and involved.
Give children honest, short answers, using language they know and can understand easily.
Try not to give too much information at once. Give them a chance to ask questions.
If you need emotional support for parents, children or young people, or help with arranging care for children, or any other issue affecting a family, contact the National Road Victim Service.
We can put you in touch with specialist organisations that help care for families.
We can also send a support book for children and their adult carers.
Call 0808 8000 401 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your right to support
Help from the police
You should be offered help from a Family Liaison Officer (FLO), a police officer with special training in helping families.
If you have not been offered help from a FLO, ask if this is possible.
Your police contact can:
- help with immediate things, such as seeing a loved one’s body or telling other people about the crash (see Section 1: What happens now?)
- give you basic details about what has happened, that may be needed by a solicitor or an insurance company (see Section 2: Practical issues)
- return to you any personal items found in a vehicle or at the place where the crash happened (see Section 1: What happens now?)
- tell you the location of a vehicle you own, if it was involved and they are examining it (see Section 2: Practical issues)
- keep you informed about the progress of their investigation and whether anyone has been arrested or is on bail (see Section 3: Criminal investigations and charges)
- put you in touch with the Crown Prosecution Service (see Section 3: Criminal investigations and charges).
Your police contact may also be able to help you:
- visit the scene of the crash, if you were not in the crash and want to go
- manage media interest in your case
- get information and support later on, for example if there is a court case.
The police have produced guidelines on family liaison that they should follow. You can read these guidelines at www.brake.org.uk/codes-and-standards.
This text is taken from the 2022-23 edition of Information and advice for bereaved families and friends following death on the road in England and Wales. Published 2022. ISBN 978-1-906409-84-5.