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Nobody plans on being in a car accident, but since there are thousands of road traffic accidents in the UK every year, it’s imperative that you know what to do should you find yourself involved in one.

1) Stop and alert the relevant emergency services

It might sound obvious, but the first thing you should do if you’re involved in a car accident is stop – if you were in any doubt about it, UK Road Traffic Law states that failing to stop at the scene of an accident is an offence. For your safety, you should turn on your hazard lights and switch off the engine. Depending on the circumstances, you may have to call the emergency services. If it appears someone has been injured you will need the police and an ambulance, while if the accident is blocking traffic you just need the police.

2) Exchange details

Drivers involved in car accidents must exchange details with each other, such as their name, address and contact telephone numbers – it’s an offence not to do so if a car has been damaged or a person injured as a result of the accident. If the other driver has left the scene or refuses to give you their details, you should call the police immediately. When exchanging details you should avoid taking blame for the accident or apologising for insurance purposes.

3) Gather evidence and information

There are lots of important details you may want to take at the scene of a crash. The most important thing is to note down information about the vehicles involved (registration numbers, makes, models, and colours) and the time and date of the accident. Other things that may be worth recording include the weather conditions, if there are any obstructions on the road or problems with the quality of the road surface, and a description of any injuries sustained and damage done to vehicles. It may even be worth making a simple sketch of the collision.

Most people will now carry some kind of camera on them, so make sure you take plenty of pictures of the accident. If there were any witnesses to the accident you may want to ask if they are willing to give you their details, but bear in mind that unlike the drivers of vehicles involved in an accident, they are not obliged to do this.

4) Visit your doctor

Even if it appears you haven’t been injured, it may be worth going to a doctor to make sure you are still in good health. If you have been injured as a result of an accident you will want it on the record to help with any insurance claims you may have to make.

5) Report the accident

If you didn’t need to inform the police about the accident immediately, make sure you report it within 24 hours. Penalties for not reporting a car accident within 24 hours may include a fine, points on your licence, or in extreme circumstances even disqualification.

After informing the police you should then contact your insurance company. There should be a clause in your policy that says how soon you need to let them know about any accidents you’re involved in; if you don’t let them know you could find they refuse to handle your claim or insure you in future. While informing your insurer, draw on the information you took at the scene of the accident and be ready to give them details about the other drivers involved.

6)Leave it to them

After following these five steps there’s nothing much more you can do. Your insurer will take care of the claim and get in touch with the relevant parties. In the meantime you can focus on making a full recovery if necessary and getting back to normal.

Written by James Sheehan, a blogger with past legal experience.