Direct Line magazine

What to do if you have an accident

Updated on: 6 December 2021

inspecting the damage after a road accident

In the moments following a car accident the driver will have many things running through their mind, making it difficult to know what actions to take.

There’s the immediate concern for the people involved; whether you should alert the emergency services; the worry and cost of repairing the car; how you’re going to get around while it’s off the road; and even what your employer, partner, or parents will say when you tell them.

Keeping a cool head can help minimise future cost and disruption. Information is the key here - you need to collect as much as possible, no matter who is at fault.

Our memories can play tricks on us so it’s sensible to keep a notebook and pen in the car, just in case. Alternatively, make notes on your smartphone and remember to use its camera. If you don’t have a mobile, keeping a disposable camera in the glovebox is a smart idea.

Here's a step-by-step guide on what you need to do after an accident.

By law you must stop if there’s been harm to people or property. Try to pull over in a safe place without obstructing the traffic. Then check whether anybody needs attention from the emergency services. Drivers must also stop if an animal other than their own (dog, horse, sheep, cow, pig, goat, donkey) has been injured or killed.

Swap details

The people at the scene fall into two categories: those involved and those who are witnesses. You want to take down the name, address and telephone number of all of them. So you don't muddle them up, write these down in two columns: Note down which car they were in and get the insurance details of the relevant drivers. If any of the vehicles are being used for work (e.g. delivery van), get their employer’s details too. If there are any police officers present, get their name, rank, and the number on their collar. And if someone leaves the scene without giving you their details, call the police.

Collect evidence

Note precisely the make, model, registration number and colour of every car involved in the accident. Then add the direction it was travelling in, the car’s condition and how many passengers it was carrying. Note down if it indicating or braking and what role it had in the accident. While it’s still fresh in your mind, write down the sequence of events as you remember them. If it’s easier, sketch out what happened. And be sure to include anything that might be relevant, such as parked vehicles obscuring your view. It’s important to do this early as you may find that talking to other people influences your view on what happened. Make sure you only note damage to vehicles or property that was actually a result of the accident. It’s not unheard of for people to claim for damage caused in a previous accident. Throughout the whole process, it’s wise to be taking photographs or video footage of the scene, the cars, the damage and the people.

Speak to your insurer first

Never admit blame or liability for an accident or offer to pay for any damage. Tell us if any other person admits blame. Even if you don’t plan to make a claim, give us a call straight away.

In the aftermath

After you’ve had time to think about what happened, you may remember further details that could prove significant. It’s important you then contact your insurer as soon as you’re reasonably able to.

What if it's your fault?

We’ll cover you for claims made by other people for bodily injury or damage to their property as the result of an accident.

What if the damage is to my car?

No worries - a Direct Line engineer will be able to inspect the damage. If your car is left unfit to drive, they’ll arrange for recovery to a garage for further inspection and repairs. Remember, if you only have Third Party Fire and Theft cover, you’ll have to make arrangements with a third party recovery agent to pick up your car.

Talk to us

When you report a claim to us, a personal claims advisor will take all the details from you – which is why writing everything down is so important. If in doubt, call our Accident Helpline on 0345 246 8471.

Hassle-free repairs

One of our approved repairers will be able to deal with your car repairs. This takes the hassle out of arranging the work yourself and having to get an estimate approved first.

Avoid further stress

We’ll provide you with a hire car if you can’t drive yours, or until an approved repairer has your car back on the road. Guaranteed Hire Car comes as standard if you have Comprehensive cover, while Guaranteed Hire Car Plus can be added for an additional premium.

Let us do the legwork

Our first priority is to get your car repaired – or if it’s a total loss and you have the right cover, arrange a settlement. Any claims against you will be dealt with through us.

Help avoiding disputes

If you're sure the accident wasn’t your fault, we’ll fight your corner as long as you provide the relevant proof. Why not add our Motor Legal Protection to your policy? This will cover the costs of recovering uninsured losses, such as personal injury and car hire.

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