When you’ve been involved in a road accident, whether you need to report it or not will depend on any injuries suffered by another party and/or whether you have given the necessary details at the accident scene. The Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 170) provides further clarification on your responsibilities following a collision.
Essentially, the legislation states that as a driver, if you’re involved in an accident on the road and any of the following occur you must take certain steps:
• Injury to a person, other than you;
• Damage to another vehicle or to property;
• Death or injury to an animal (these are defined as a dog, horse, pig, cattle, goat, sheep, mule or ass) except those in your own vehicle or trailer.
The steps you are required take are:
• Stop and stay at the accident scene for a reasonable timeframe;
• Provide your vehicle registration number, name and address together with the vehicle owner’s details (if the vehicle is not owned by you) to anyone who should reasonably need these;
• If your details are not provided at the start you are under an obligation to report the accident to the police (by visiting a station or making a report to a local constable) as soon as possible and within a maximum of 24 hours.
When injuries occur
If someone else is injured, as well as taking the above steps you must also:
• Produce your insurance certificate if asked by anyone at the scene who has a reasonable need to see it. If you cannot do this you need to report the accident to the police as soon as possible and within 24 hours. You can do this by visiting a station in person or making a report to a local constable, producing your insurance certificate.
In the event of no injury, if someone else deems you to be responsible for the collision they are within their rights to ask for your insurance details. This doesn’t necessarily have to be at the time of the accident and can be done later. If you fail to comply with this request, you have committed an offence!
Reporting a road traffic accident to the police
If you fail to stop and provide details, including your insurance details (in the event of injury) you are legally bound to report the accident by attending a police station in person as soon as you can and within a maximum of 24 hours. You cannot report the accident by email, phone or post.
A road traffic accident is a frightening, upsetting and traumatic event to be involved in. Although difficult at the time, clear thinking is critical, as is taking the necessary steps whilst you can still remember the accident details. Before leaving the accident scene and whilst you can remember the details of the accident you should:
• Call an ambulance if there are injuries;
• Call the police if the road is obstructed or help is needed;
• Take down the details of anyone who could act as a witness;
• To help you to make a statement later, if required, take down your own notes about the causes of the accident whilst it’s still clear in your mind;
• Take photographs if you can. A mobile phone is the ideal way to do this;
• Prepare to provide your name, address and the details of your insurance company to those involved in the accident;
• Take down the details of others involved in the accident, including the registration numbers of their vehicles.
After the collision
After the collision, you should take the following steps:
• Contact your insurance company irrespective of whether or not a claim will be pursued;
• If you’re asked to do so, take your driving documents down to a police station;
• If you did not provide your name and address at the time of the accident you must do so by reporting it to the police within 24 hours;
Potential problems and complications
Accidents can be fraught with many complications and your essential contacts for helping to resolve these will be your insurance company and the police. The police have a formal complaints procedure that you can invoke should you feel that you have met your legal obligations but the accident has not been handled correctly.