What to do if you’re in a car accident

No one wants to get into an accident, but it’s best to know what to do in case you do get involved in one.

When we get into our cars the last thing we expect to happen is to be involved in an accident. However, as the saying goes, accidents do happen…

Whether it is a small bumper bash, or an accident that leaves you watching your car being towed away, not panicking and knowing what the correct procedures are will help during this stressful encounter.

“When involved in an accident, try to keep calm and remember what steps you need to follow from an insurance and legal perspective,” advises Dave Roache, chief operating officer of insurance company dotsure.co.za

“If you are unsure, call your insurance company to help you get all the necessary advice. They are on hand and equipped to help you through this distressing situation.” Having your insurer’s telephone number saved in your phone is a necessity for this exact reason.

Car accidents happen and no matter the severity, having a checklist on what you need to do will help you through the difficult situation.

Here are seven steps to follow should you be in an accident:

Step 1

Double check if you and the other occupants in your car are uninjured, before checking on the driver and passengers in the other car or cars that may be involved in the accident. Breathe, and try to remain calm. If anyone needs assistance call an ambulance immediately and, unless absolutely necessary, remember the rule of not moving them, as it may cause more harm or escalate their injuries.

Step 2

Don’t shout. A calm voice and demeanour can help neutralise an emotionally charged situation. Talk about what happened and see if you can come to an agreement on how the accident occurred. Do not get defensive, simply speak calmly. It is likely that versions of the story will differ, but it is not the time to dispute this.

Step 3

Trade information: names, contact details, car details, license plate and ID information. You will need this when reporting the accident to the police and to your insurance company.

Step 4

Take pictures and/or a video of the scene of the accident. Show the damage to car/s and where the accident took place. This evidence may be needed by your insurance company, and if there is a dispute it will be needed in the proceedings.

Step 5

Understand that your story and the other driver’s, or drivers’, version/s of events could differ. If there are witnesses who saw what happened (not individuals who are part of the accident), find out from them if they are happy to be contacted at a later stage should you need their testimony. Make sure to obtain their contact details and provide them with yours. Security cameras in the vicinity of the accident are also a good source of evidence. Request and obtain that footage as soon as possible.

Step 6

Rely on help if you need it. If the situation is unstable, or you need help getting information from the other driver, call the police and they will advise you on what to do, or may send an officer to assist. Do not leave the scene unless you feel threatened or unsafe.

Step 7

Enquire where the nearest police station is and report the accident. Legally, you are required to report the accident within the first 24 hours if there is a fatality, or on the first working day after the accident if nobody was injured. They will ask you to write up a report of how the accident occurred; be truthful, and precise. You will be given a case number which you will be able to use for any required update and to provide your insurer with when logging your claim which needs to be done within 30 days of the accident.