If you’ve been involved in a serious road traffic accident, it makes sense to call the police (to report an major accident) – but what about minor collisions and scrapes? Small accidents, like catching the rear bumper of the car in front of you as you move forward when the traffic lights change, are unlikely to cause much damage. In fact, both parties might inspect the damage, agree that no harm has been done, and move on. Report to your insurance provider immediately!
However, if you fail to exchange details with the other party and neglect to report the incident to the authorities, you could find yourself facing repercussions down the line. To help clear up any confusion, let’s take a detailed look at what you should do if you’re involved in a minor car accident.
Understanding the Road Traffic Act
The rules of the Road Traffic Act (1988) regarding collisions are quite simple. If you’re driving a vehicle and become involved in an accident which causes injury or damage to another vehicle, person, object or animal (this can include everything from dogs to agricultural animals like sheep and cattle) you are obliged to stop and provide information to any person with “reasonable grounds” to ask for your details.
In most cases, this person will be the driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash. If you don’t own the vehicle you are driving at the time of the accident, you should provide the details of the vehicle owner too.
24 hours to report
If you fail to exchange details with the other party at the scene of an accident (for example, if their car was stationary in a car park), you are obliged to report the incident to your local police force within 24 hours.
The problem with this rule is that people are often confused as to what counts as an accident. Some people might not consider a clipped wing mirror as a collision – but failing to report something as innocuous as this could have severe penalties.
Failure to stop
If you don’t exchange details at the scene of an accident, and you also fail to contact police, you could be committing one or two offences: “failure to report an accident”, and “failure to stop”. Each of these can result in a minimum of five points added to your licence. In serious cases, they could even lead to a prison sentence.
Contact your insurer
After you’ve exchanged details (if possible) and contacted the police, your next port of call should be to contact your insurer. Policy small print usually dictates that you have a responsibility to inform your insurance company about any accidents, regardless of how minor they are and regardless of whether a claim will be made.
Will a minor accident affect my premium?
A small “prang” won’t necessarily affect the price of your insurance premium, especially if neither party makes a claim as a result of the accident.
When in doubt, it’s ultimately the best course of action to report any collision to the police and your insurance company, regardless of how minor it is. After all, it beats falling foul of the law and ending up with points and a fine.
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