UK Motor Insurance – In The Event Of An Accident

What To Do In The Event Of An Accident

If you have an accident there are some things you must do by law. They come from the Road Traffic Act(s) These are set out in the Highway Code and also in many road atlas’s and other publications for drivers. You should also check your car insurance documentation to see what exactly your insurer requires of you when you are involved in a road traffic accident.

Just to remind you, the Highway Code says:

If you are involved in an accident which causes damage or injury to any other person , or other vehicle, or any animal (horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog) not in your vehicle, or to roadside property you MUST:

  1. Stop
  2. Give your own and the vehicle owner’s name and address and the registration number of the vehicle to anyone having reasonable grounds for requiring them;
  3. If you do not give your name and address at the time of the accident, report the accident to the police as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case within 24 hours.
  4. If another person is injured and you do not produce your insurance certificate at the time of the accident to the police or to anyone who with reasonable grounds has requested it, you MUST also:
  5. report the accident to the police as soon as possible, and in any case within 24 hours;
  6. produce your insurance certificate to the police either when reporting the accident or within seven days at any police station you select.
  7. The conditions in your policy say that you must not admit liability. Even saying ‘sorry’ can be taken as admission of guilt. IT IS NOT UP TO YOU TO DECIDE WHO IS TO BLAME.

Leave that to your insurers and if necessary the law courts. Also, the police do not decide who is to blame. If they are involved they will be collecting evidence to determine if a criminal offence has taken place and if so, reporting this to the Crown Prosecution Service.

If they have evidence to prosecute someone for a driving offence the chances are that the same evidence proves an act of negligence in a civil court.

 What To Do In The Event Of An Accident (When It’s Your Fault !)

Some people have difficulty accepting that they could possibly be to blame for an accident. This is especially true of older drivers who have ’40 years unblemished record’ or those who have passed an advanced driving course. I recall a claim form which said ‘ this accident was not my fault – I am an advanced driver and he should not have stopped in front of me!’ (This driver had just hit a stationary car.)

But the truth is that even the best of us can have a momentary lapse of concentration. And of course there are those with an aggressive driving style or a very timid driving style which is just asking for trouble on today’s overcrowded roads.

When you report to your insurers, tell them the truth! It is OK to admit to your insurers that it was your fault. They will not thank you if you bend the truth to try and make out it was not your fault as they might try and defend claims made against you, lose and ultimately increase they outlay. They would much rather you told them simply and clearly what happened than make up a story that might make you feel better but will set them on a long and expense dispute they can’t win. e.g. ‘ I drove out of the side road without looking and was hit by the other car’ is much better than ‘ I stopped at the junction and looked both ways, nothing was coming so I started to cross when he hit me. He must have been going so fast and it was all his fault’

By being honest, holding you hand up and telling your insurers exactly what happened, you give them a much better chance of making the right decisions about how to deal with the third party aspect of your claim. If they know they will have to pay the other drivers claim, they can start to take steps to limit and control the amount of money they have to pay out.

You will probably receive loads of letters from the other drivers insurance company, his brokers, his legal expense insurers or his solicitors, possibly his employers (if using a company car) and so on. Just send them all off to your insurer, unanswered. They will look after this for you. Some solicitors in particular can be very threatening and intimidating with the style of letter they use. They says things like ‘you must tell us the name and address and policy number of your insurers or you will be in breach of the Road Traffic Act and we will report you for a criminal offence’ ‘You must admit liability in writing within 7 days or we will issue proceedings against you’ and so on. Just ignore it! Don’t get worried. Let your insurers deal with it. I have had numerous telephone calls from my customers who have become very frightened by this sort of letter. There are some very aggressive solicitors out there today who have found a ‘gravy train’ by doing this sort of work. Since the implementation of the ‘Woolf reforms’ in April 1999, solicitors should now use a standard ‘letter of claim’ but this is still somewhat intimidating and I would urge Lord Woolf to ‘tone it down a bit’.

You could also receive a Summons through the post. There are two possible Summons you might receive (for my dear readers in Scotland, this bit applies to English Law but similar action happens in Scottish Law)

– A summons to answer a criminal prosecution in the magistrates court (or Crown Court if the alleged offence is very serious)
– A county court ‘claim form’ (or possibly a high court writ) seeking payment of ‘damages’ for a civil action.

In either case, send this immediately to your insurer. They will look at it to see what the summons is for and decide what action to take. They might appoint (and pay for) a solicitor to defend you or if it is a civil matter, they might just decide to pay up.

If you feel the need to talk to your insurer, please do so but do not delay in letting them have the Summons. That is the worst thing you can do. There are time limits in which action must be taken.

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 What To Do In The Event Of An Accident (When Both Parties Are To Blame)

Accidents frequently happen where more than one driver is partly to blame.

Quite often one or more do not accept any fault and some heated exchanges have been known to take place.

The civil courts deal with this under the ‘Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945’ It is necessary to calculate the full cost of the damage caused and then reduce it by the % of blame between the drivers.

There is no precise or scientific way to do this. And the % is negotiable. But it is a method that works quite well and until someone comes up with something better, that is what happens.

The classic example is the narrow road collision. In a road just wide enough for one car, two cars approach each other and one or both fail to stop in time. Both drivers blame the other for failing to stop. There are no witnesses. No evidence to show who is right. Both could be right – perhaps they both failed to stop in time. Cases like this are usually settled with each driver taking 50% of the blame for the accident. The insurance claim is settled on a 50/50 basis. The total cost of all the damage to both cars and associated losses is calculated. Each insurer then pays a half. You would get half of your uninsured losses back.

There are legal text books full to the brim of cases that have gone before the courts where there has been an apportionment of contributory negligence. They cover just about every eventuality you can imagine. Your insurers have access to all this ‘case law’ in their office.

If you find your self in this position, talk to your insurers about what they feel is a satisfactory position to adopt. They will often be right, if you have told them the truth! Then get negotiating with your opponent. As a last resort consider the small claims procedure.

Some people think that insurers share all claims on a 50/50 basis. This is not so, all claims these days are dealt with on their merit. Some years ago insurers had agreements with each other to resolve cases quickly and amicably. They did not impact upon the issues of liability! The most well known agreement was called ‘the knock for knock’ agreement. It has all but died a death. So you have no need to be worried about it!