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What to do in the event of a car accident

AA Car Insurance: Car accident checklist

There is no such thing as a minor car accident for those who are involved. There can be no more sickening feeling than that which accompanies the sound of two cars colliding. It’s a heartbreak, and the complications that flow from it can bamboozle you at a time when you are least able to cope with them.

Try not panic

When a minor car accident happens it is often the case that you are so flustered and so filled with adrenaline that you can hardly think straight.  However it’s important to remain calm and take stock of the situation.  A calm head will help keep other drivers, your passengers and road users involved in the car crash calm.

Remaining calm will also help you to remember the cause of the car accident.  Whether it was driver error, a road obstruction, a poor road surface or the behavior of another road user.

Assess any casualties

Starting with yourself, check if you are injured, then move on to the rest of the passengers in your vehicle.  If you are capable of doing so assess any other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists involved for injury too.  Don’t move any injured parties unless they are in immediate danger from oncoming vehicles.  Call the emergency services, providing as much detail about the car crash as you can such as the location of the car crash, number of people and vehicles involved and injuries sustained.

Deciding whether to move your car

If it’s a serious motor accident, don’t move any vehicles.  However, if you or the other drivers concerned have warning triangles in their vehicle, use them if you are physically capable and it’s safe to do so.  Place them about 20 meters behind the car nearest oncoming traffic.  If the motor accident occurs on a bend in the road, place warning signs on either side to alert motorists.   If it is possible to do it in safety then remove debris from the road which may be a hazard to other traffic.

Don’t forget other road users completely; if it’s a minor car accident, pull over as far left as possible to prevent obstruction to oncoming vehicles.  This is preferable to causing a massive traffic tailback by blocking the road for half an hour because of a broken wing mirror.

Make sure that your vehicle’s passengers exit the car from the left and stay as far left on the roadside as possible.  Pets travelling in your vehicle should be kept in the car.  Otherwise they could cause another car accident if let loose on the road.

Exchanging motoring details

After a car accident, there are a number of things that you need to remember to avoid complications later. The AA Handbook prints a checklist of things to remember. Some motor insurance companies also issue leaflets to keep in your car’s glove box.

These include:

  • Your names, addresses and phone numbers
  • The address of the owner of the vehicle you are driving if it’s not your car
  • Your motor insurance company names and numbers
  • Your motor insurance policy numbers
  • Your driver’s license numbers
  • Your vehicle’s registration numbers
  • Your car’s year, make, model and color

You’re not allowed to withhold this information from another party involved in the motor accident.  You should also take the contact details and driver’s license numbers of those who witnessed the car accident.  Plus the name and number of the on-scene Garda.

Photograph the Car Accident

It’s a good idea to photograph the scene of the car crash and the damage to the vehicles concerned.  Using your mobile phone, photograph all vehicles involved capturing their position on the road and close ups of the damage sustained to all cars. If a camera is not available, find a piece of paper and document the same details pertaining to all vehicles.

A host of details may prove relevant and so should not be overlooked. The speed of the vehicles involved, width of the road and road markings, road surface, weather conditions, visibility, the manner of other’s driving. Note whether the other driver and passengers were wearing seatbelts.

Discussing the specifics of the car accident

No discussion of liability needs to take place at the scene of the car crash; do not feel drawn into any such discussion.  Even if you feel yourself to have been responsible take full details of the other driver’s motor insurance.  You should only discuss details of the motor accident with the Gardaí or your motor insurance company or motor insurance intermediary.

Once you have exchanged all necessary details with the other drivers involved in the car crash, take some time to collect yourself before driving off.  Anyone is likely to be shaken after a minor car crash. It will be hard to drive so take your time.

Most drivers come away thankful that the car crash was not any worse. But motor insurance issues and disputed liability can be a major headache later on if you failed to document the relevant details at the time. Many drivers involved in a car crash revive after a cup of tea back at home, regain their composure and then wish they had checked another dozen small details at the scene of the car crash.