What to Do After a Major Traffic Accident
An accident is defined as a traffic accident if it occurs on a public road or a place to which the public has access, including footpaths and pathways. If you are involved in a major accident involving other cars, people or even animals, then you have certain responsibilities, to yourself, the police and other road users.
A driver involved in a traffic accident is legally required to stop and give assistance if anyone, other than themselves is possibly injured, if another vehicle apart from their own is damaged, if an animal is injured or if a bollard, street lamp or other road sign is damaged.
Once You Have StoppedAfter you have stopped, you are advised to remain close to your vehicle and be there long enough for anyone else directly or indirectly involved to take your details.
After an accident, any drivers involved are required to provide personal information such as their name and address, the registration number of the vehicle and whether they are in fact the owner of the vehicle.
If someone other than the owner of the vehicle was driving it at the time of the accident, the owner can also be required to give the police information about the person who was driving. It is an offence not to provide the police with this information unless the owner can show they did not know and it was not reasonable for them to find out.
When another driver refuses to give informationIf another driver involved in an accident refuses to give details at the scene of an accident, don’t worry - the information can be gathered in other ways.
For example, if the registration number of the vehicle has been noted and the accident is reported to the police, they should be able to trace the owner (although this may not necessarily be the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident). They can also track down the owner’s insurance company to determine whether they have been notified of the accident.
Finding WitnessesIt is important to try to obtain evidence from as many independent witnesses as you can, although do not be surprised if witnesses are not forthcoming or do not volunteer any information.
If someone who is present at an accident refuses to act as a witness, there’s little you can do as it is a matter for the police. Unless they have the name and address of the witness to an accident they will not be able to be called for any civil proceedings that may result from the accident. There may be some witnesses, however, that do come forward. If you can, suggest that they write down their evidence as soon as they can while the details are fresh in their mind.
They should make sure they keep these original notes in a safe place as it may be some time before this evidence is called upon. Quick sketches of the accident can help and photographs taken from a camera or mobile phone could also ultimately prove useful.
Making a Report to the PoliceIf the accident involves another party it may need to be reported to the police. You are expected to report the accident to a police officer or at a police station, in person, as soon as possible and in any case within 24 hours.
When Injury has Been CausedIf it is clear that an injury has occurred to another person, be they a driver, passenger or bystander, you should call an ambulance and also the police to the scene of the accident.
All drivers involved will be asked by the police to produce a valid insurance certificate, if not at the time by reporting to a police station and producing the certificate within seven days.
If, however, the driver produces their insurance details at the time of the incident there is no further obligation to report to a police station.
Who is considered responsible for the accident?Immediately after an accident it may seem obvious who caused it. Some accidents are not disputed because liability is clear. There will, however, be occasions when the initial cause, and blame, for the accident is unclear or in dispute.
For example, most people consider that if a driver runs into the back of a vehicle then they are liable because they were driving at an unsafe distance to the car in front. This is often the case, but not always so.
At the scene of an accident, instead of trying to apportion blame, you should assess the scene, look to ensure that there are no injuries, remember your responsibilities and whether you should call the police, look for witnesses and take as many notes and photos that explain what happened as you can.