Here’s what to do if you’ve been in a car accident

Car accidents are scary and overwhelming ordeals. Unfortunately, they can happen at any place and time. Photo supplied.

Car accidents are scary and overwhelming ordeals. Unfortunately, they can happen at any place and time. Photo supplied.

Published Jul 2, 2024


By: Keletso Mpisane

Car accidents are scary and overwhelming ordeals. Unfortunately, they can happen at any place and time. This makes it important for drivers to equip themselves with the knowledge to cope when in a crash.

It’s difficult to focus while the shock and injuries of an accident are fresh. This is why it’s crucial to know what to do, whom to contact and what steps must be taken after a crash.

Knowing the crucial steps ahead of time will help you minimise uncertainty in these dreadful situations.

Step 1: Know who to call to put safety first

Turn the car off and make sure those in your vehicle are safe. If anyone needs urgent medical care, call emergency services by dialling 112 on your phone. This works on any cellphone network; the number will connect you to a call centre that will get you help from the nearest hospital.

If any passengers or pedestrians have been injured or if there is damage to property, you should not move the vehicles and you must remain at the scene until a police vehicle arrives, according to the law.

You can then turn the hazard lights on, especially if the accident takes place at night or there is low visibility. Check on the people in the other vehicle and if anyone is badly injured. None of the vehicles should be moved until a police officer has cleared it.

Step 2: Once help is on the way, start taking down details

Get the emergency warning triangle out of your car – it’s usually stored in the boot. Place it at least 45m behind the crash scene to alert other drivers to slow down.

Your phone can help you get the details for all the paperwork that will come later. Record information like the date, time, weather, accident location and the other party’s details. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and kindly ask the other driver if you may take images of their car.

A checklist of what you need from the other vehicles involved in the accident:

  • The full names of the other drivers and owner if the owner differs.
  • The ID numbers of the other drivers.
  • The cellphone and other contact numbers of the owner and driver.
  • The insurance details like the name of their insurance company and policy number.
  • If any of the drivers are driving a company vehicle, get the details of their employer too.
  • Take down the details of the vehicle/s, including the make, model, colour and registration number.

It’s also a good idea to get contact details for people who saw the accident happen. This can help you when your insurance is processing your claim.

Step 3: Now you have the details, it’s time to make calls

You can call your insurer to let them know about the accident and arrange for a tow truck.

Use only a towing service that’s authorised by your insurance provider. Don’t let tow truck drivers move your vehicle before you have authorisation from your insurer for the towing services and a quote and have recorded their name, contact details and vehicle registration number.

If you can drive your car because there was only light damage, follow your insurer’s instructions on what to do next.

Step 4: Have information on hand for the paperwork

You have to file an accident report at a police station within 24 hours of the accident. Even if you think it’s just minor damage, you must get an accident report number to claim from your insurer.

This is where the details you collected at the scene will be crucial. Accident reports are detailed and your insurer will want information such as:

  • The time and location of the incident.
  • The details of the parties and their vehicles.
  • The road conditions (this is why you should note the weather).
  • If liquor or drug use was suspected and if anyone was tested on the scene.
  • A sketch and description of the accident.

The accident report number is pivotal for insurers to process claims. The information is used to validate the claim. Both accident reports and insurance claim forms need clear details of the accident. Be honest about the facts of the accident on the forms.

While the immediate steps can be a lot to take in, being prepared in these unpredictable situations could save you time and bring peace of mind.

* Mpisane is the head of Blink by MiWay.