You've been in an accident - what now?

Jeff Osborne
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Too many people have very little idea of what both the law (and their insurance company requires from them) which is why we should all take note of the steps we need to take.

1. Stop your vehicle

If you are involved in an accident that causes injury or damage to property, people or animals, you are required to stop under the South African law – and could be liable to fines or even a prison sentence if you don’t.

Stop your vehicle, assess the damage and call for the appropriate assistance immediately.

2. If the cars can be moved and no one is injured...

In the event of a “bumper bashing” where no one has been injured and the vehicles involved are damaged but still driveable, you should move the vehicles so as to not obstruct traffic and exchange information with the other parties involved.

Use your cell phone to take pictures of the other vehicle (and its license disc) and take down the other party’s full name, ID number, address and contact numbers.

This information can prove invaluable should you want to make a claim against your insurance or the Road Accident Fund, or if you want to claim the costs of repairs from the other party.

3. Report the accident

Even if no one was injured, both parties are required to report the accident at a police station of their choice. (It does not necessarily have to be the police station closest to the accident). The police will issue you with a form and an incident number that you will have to relate to your insurance broker.

4. If you suspect someone may have been injured

In the event of a more serious accident, your first consideration should always be to establish whether or not any of your passengers or passengers in the other vehicle may have been injured.

If so, immediately call both emergency services such as medical rescue (0800-111-990) and the police (10111). Don’t attempt to administer medical treatment if you aren’t skilled in First Aid.

In this instance, you should not move your car until a law enforcement officer instructs you to do so – even if it is still drivable.

Unless you need to call for help, you should always stay at the scene until you are given the go ahead by the police to leave.

5. Do not let anyone tow your car away

Tow trucks are usually quick to converge at the scene of an accident and can be extremely persuasive when it comes to towing your vehicle away, but unless they are authorised by your insurance company to remove your car – don’t allow them to.

Your insurance company may very well have contracted a preferred repairer and towing service, and vehicles under warranty may usually only be repaired by a panel beater that carries badge approval.

It’s best to avoid dealing with private towing companies to prevent the risk of losing your warranty or incurring release fees. Keep your insurer’s number on your cell phone, along with your policy number, and deal directly with them.

The majority will have 24-hour customer care helplines that can arrange the necessary tow trucks and assistance you require.
Accidents happen, as the saying goes, but preparing for such an eventuality is an important part of being a responsible vehicle owner.

Make sure that you have all the relevant emergency and insurance contact information you might need saved on your cell phone or stored in your cubbyhole at all times and remain cognisant of what the law requires you to do.

Car accidents are extremely stressful and preparation can make a huge difference during the event.

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