Being involved in a car accident is one of, if not the most, stressful things that can happen behind the wheel of a car.
But what do you do if you are involved in an accident? The steps that a motorist must take if they are in an accident depend on the severity and circumstances surrounding it.
However, this handy guide to dealing with an accident should help walk you through the process of dealing with an accident and the car insurance claims process that follows.
After an accident
In a collision the first thing is to check all drivers and passengers are unharmed. If somebody is injured, call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
This should also be the option to take if the accident is blocking the road or causing an obstruction to other drivers.
Contacting the police should be a step taken if the other driver is drunk or fails to stop at the scene of an accident, and any information about the car should be noted down in this case.
Once this is done, it is time to record as much information as possible at the scene of the accident, including date, time, street names, weather conditions and speed limits.
Ask witnesses for details in the event of an insurance dispute and, where possible, take pictures of the scene or anything that you feel may be of use in future if there is a dispute over insurance.
It is important to do this not only because the other party may dispute what happens but, in the case of more serious accidents, it will help police ascertain what happened.
The other driver
If there is an accident with another driver, it is important to take down a name, address and contact details.
This will help with insurance claims in future - but remember to stay calm. A roadside argument is not going to help anybody!
Car insurance after an accident
After the accident it is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. According to leading insurance expert MoneySupermarket.com, there is often a window in which people can claim for insurance so you will not want to miss out on that.
According to MoneySupermarket.com:
"Always be completely honest and open with your insurer, as any attempt to withhold information or conceal the truth could invalidate the policy or even end up in prosecution for fraud."
We also advise you to keep a record of anybody you have spoken to, when and what was said. This will help if there are any disputes with the insurance company down the line.
Car insurers and accidents
The first step an insurance company will take is to send out a claims form to be filled in, although they will also arrange for an expert to look at the car in order to find out what the cost of repair is likely to be.
The insurer will usually offer to take it to an approved garage, although you can find your own if you wish.
This will slow the process down because the insurer will need to see quotes and may want to send somebody to check the damage themselves.
Taking the car to an approved garage also means the insurer can guarantee the standard of the work, something it cannot do at a different garage of the driver's choosing.
What happens if the car is a write-off?
If the car is judged to be a write-off - that is, if the cost to repair is more than the value of the car - the insurance company will pay out a figure equal to the value of the car before the accident.
This price is affected by the history of the car; a full service history will also lead to a higher value offered.
Drivers are also warned the price may be lower than equivalent cars on sale because the value is usually a figure between the higher retail price and the lower trade price of the car.
Don't agree with the value offered?
If you've been offered a value by the insurance company and are not happy with it, you can appeal via the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).