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What to do in case of a car accident

From bumper bashings to 10 car pile-ups on the highway, car accidents are an every day occurrence on South African roads. If the worst happened and you were involved in a car accident would you know what to do at the accident scene? Find out what you need to know and read our step-by-step guide to dealing with car accidents. If you read one thing today, make it this article!

Step 1: Stop and call for help

  • Stop, switch on your hazards to warn other vehicles and climb out of your car if it is safe to do so.

  • Call an ambulance and the police if passengers, drivers or pedestrians are injured.

Note:
You are required by law to stop your vehicle if you are involved in an accident and commuters and pedestrians are injured or killed or property is damaged. Failing to stop is considered a criminal offence.  

You can also be criminally charged for failing to help someone who has been hurt in an accident you are involved in, even if the accident was not your fault. Remember, however, that as much as you want to help injured people you should not administer first aid unless you are qualified to do so. 

Step 2: Clear the road 

  • Move any cars that are obstructing the flow of traffic, but be sure to mark their position on the road first with chalk or spray paint if available, or to photograph the scene before the cars are moved.

Note:
If a person or animal has been injured in the accident do not interfere with the evidence or move any vehicles unless those vehicles are obstructing the traffic completely.

Step 3: Assess the damage

  • For insurance purposes take photos of the accident from as many different angles as possible.

  • Take close-up photos of any damage to your car and any other cars involved.

Step 4: Questions and answers

Take down the following information from all other drivers involved in the accident as well as from people who witnessed the accident: 

  • Full names and surnames 

  • ID numbers

  • Home, cell and business phone numbers

  • Physical addresses 

  • E-mail addresses 

  • Vehicle registration 

  • Description of the vehicles (make, model and colour)

  • Names and contact details of the police officials, paramedics and tow truck drivers

  • Your location: street name and suburb 

  • The time of the accident

  • Road conditions and visibility  

Remember to also take note of what happened immediately before and after the accident, for example was the other driver drunk, talking on his/her cell or driving too fast.

Note: You need this information if you want to submit a claim to your insurance company or the Road Accident Fund or if you want to claim the cost of the repairs to your car from other drivers. 

Step 5: Report the accident to the police 

  • Report the accident to the police within 24 hours. If you are injured or in hospital and cannot report the incident within 24 hours, do so as soon as you possibly can and explain why your report is delayed.

Note: It is an offence not to report an accident in which another person has been injured or in which someone else's property has been damaged even if neither of the parties intends taking legal action.

Step 6: Report the accident to your insurance company 

  • Report the accident to your insurance company and submit a claim where relevant.

Note: Report the accident to your insurance company even if you don't intend submitting a claim to them. This is important because if you caused the accident another party involved in the accident may wish to make a claim against your policy.

Important notes  

  • Don't admit liability for the accident, even if you think that you may have caused it

  • When making your statement to the police give only the essentials and do not sign a written statement without first consulting your insurance company or an attorney

  • Don't allow your vehicle to be towed by any towing service other than your insurance provider's authorised towing service

  • If you don't have tow cover with your insurance company ask the tow truck driver for a quote before your vehicle is towed away

  • Write down the name, contact details and vehicle registration number of the tow truck driver and find out where your car is being taken

Final word
A car accident will leave you dazed and confused. Take a moment to collect your thoughts, take a few deep breaths and remember to try and remain as calm as possible. 

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