What to do after a traffic accident

Even at low speeds, a traffic collision can be a stressful and difficult experience. Nobody plans to have a smash, so when they do happen, they usually catch us off guard. And it’s this lack of preparedness which can cost drivers down the track. However, with a little knowledge you can protect yourself from potential traps. Particularly if you’re not the driver at fault, covering yourself can be very important.

Here is our 10 step guide regarding what to do after a smash.

Step 1: Get to safety

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been involved in a rear end smash on a busy public road, or a low speed collision in a parking garage, the most important thing is to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers while minimising the risk to passersby.

So, immediately after the incident, drive your car to the kerb, put on your hazard lights, and before exiting the vehicle make sure it is safe to do so. If there have been any injuries, contact emergency services.

After a collision, safety should always come first.

Step 2: Know your legal obligations

Your exact legal obligations may differ depending on your state or territory, and you should always speak with a legal professional regarding advice specific to your situation. Broadly speaking, though, in the event of a collision, you are required to do the following.

  • You must stop if you were involved in the collision
  • You must supply your name and address to others involved
  • You must report the collision to police if injuries have resulted from the smash or damage has occurred to property and the owner is not in attendance
  • You must not drive away if your vehicle is now unroadworthy

Others involved in the collision should adhere to these same standards.

Step 3: Keep a level head and get details

Traffic collisions can result in a high stress environment – especially if you’re not the driver at fault. It’s important therefore to keep your cool and apply your best judgement. Exchange information with the other drivers involved. Be polite but firm, losing your temper will only make the situation more difficult. Stay calm and record their details.

Get the following from each driver involved in the collision:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact phone number
  • Car make and model
  • License plate number
  • Insurance details

If any drivers involved in the collision refuse to give you their details, if they actively attempt to stop you from recording their details, or if they drive away without giving you their details, contact the police.

Step 4: Notify the police if required

It is not necessary to contact the police in all road collisions. However, as stated above, you will be required to contact the police if injuries have occurred as a result of the collision. Or, if damage to property or livestock has taken place and the owner is not in attendance.

You should also contact the police if you believe any of the drivers involved in the collision are under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances. Or, if other drivers are attempting to intimidate you, or are not allowing you to record their details.

witness photo evidence crashStep 5: Get photos and a witness 

Modern mobile phones mean that just about everyone can take decent quality pictures and in some cases high resolution video with the device they keep in their pocket. Photograph the damage to both your and other vehicles, as well as any other details relevant to the collision. The more photos you can take the better.

A witness who can confirm your version of events can also be in invaluable. A witness can be a passenger, another driver not involved in the collision, or a passerby. Take notes too if possible.

Step 6: Do not admit liability for the collision

It is vital that you do not admit liability for collision or that you blame yourself publically. This is a precaution, but it can become important if legal proceedings are raised.

Step 7: Call your roadside assist or towing company

If your car is damaged to a point where it can no longer be driven safely, then it will need to be towed. If you’re unsure whether your vehicle is safe to drive contact your roadside assist provider. They will be able to advise you on the condition of your vehicle.

If your car does need to be towed, remember to remove any personal or important items before the car is taken away. The last thing you want is for your car to be towed with your wallet inside.

Step 8: Contact your insurer

Contact your insurer and report the collision. Your insurer will walk you through the claim process. They deal with this sort of thing every day, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure of anything. It’s what they do.

Step 9: See a doctor if necessary

If you, or any of your passengers, have been injured in the collision, consulate a health care professional. Even if the injury seems minor, such as neck pain or bruising, it may be worth seeing your GP – you never know what damage is unseen.

Step 10: Choose your repairer and get back on the road

If your insurance policy includes choice of repairer, then it is your right to choose who works on your vehicle. If you have a repairer you trust, then you can choose for them to carry out the repairs.

Your insurer may encourage you to choose an ‘insurer preferred repairer’ or a repairer who they have an existing relationship with. However, these preferred repairers don’t necessarily represent the best value for you the policy holder.

If you don’t like your insurer’s chosen repairer, back yourself, and choose your own.

About the author

Sheen Group has been getting Australian drivers back on the road since 1969. They’re a proudly family run business that specialises in panel beating and vehicle repairs.

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