What to do if you’re involved in a car accident
Being involved in a car crash can cause panic to set in, but it’s important to stay calm and be aware of what you need to do.
Driving comes with certain risks, and no matter what your driving experience is, being involved in a crash can leave you shaken and stressed.
If you are involved in a motor collision, you must follow certain procedures to ensure the safety of all involved, minimise your potential financial loss and make a car insurance claim.
Here we look at what you should do in the event of a car accident so you can work through the panic and know what steps to take.
What should you do if you’re involved in a motor collision?
If you’re involved in a car accident, you should follow these steps:
1. Stay calm and stop the car as soon as possible
It is a criminal offence not to stop your car when involved in a collision.
If your car is still in motion:
- Pull over as soon as you can
- Turn off the engine
- Switch the hazard lights on
2. Assess any casualties and call for help
Check yourself for injuries, then check all the passengers in your vehicle. If possible, assess any other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists involved for injury too.
It’s important not to move any injured people unless they are in immediate danger from oncoming vehicles, or if their vehicle may go on fire or overturn.
Call the Gardaí (telephone 999 or 112) and, if necessary, ambulance services. The Gardaí will need to get involved if there appears to be drink or drugs involved, or if you suspect the other driver may have deliberately caused the accident.
Provide as much information about the car crash as you can on the phone, including:
- The location of the car crash
- The number of people and vehicles involved
- The injuries sustained
3. Decide whether to move the cars
If your accident is serious, it’s best to not move the cars. If, however, it’s a minor collision, you should mark the position of the road and then move the vehicle involved. This way, they’re not blocking the road or causing danger to other road users.
Remove debris from the road which may be a hazard to other traffic, if it’s safe to do so.
Top tip: We’d recommend taking some pictures of the crash, the scene, and damage to the vehicles before moving them. It's also a good idea to take note of who was wearing seatbelts. You may find it beneficial to keep a notepad and pen in your glovebox to jot down any important information.
4. Warn other drivers
Try to warn oncoming traffic of the accident. To warn other drivers of the accident, you can put your hazard lights on or place a reflective advance-warning triangle on the road, if you have one. Don’t place one of these on a motorway though.
5. Exchange details
If you’re in a collision with another driver, you should exchange information such as:
- Your names, addresses and phone numbers
- The address of the owner of the vehicle you are driving, if it’s not your car
- The names of your insurers and numbers
- Your motor insurance policy numbers
- Your driver’s licence numbers
- Your vehicle’s registration numbers
- Your car’s year, make, model and colour
You should also aim to take the contact details of witnesses and the Garda who was on the scene. You may need to ensure that a Garda report has been filed for insurance purposes.
During this time, you don’t need to discuss liability and you don’t need to admit fault to the driver of the other vehicle.
6. Write down what happened
You should document all relevant facts relating to the collision for yourself as soon as possible afterwards. Sign and date your account when it is completed.
7. Report the accident
Minor car accidents might not necessarily require immediate attention from the Gardaí, but you still need to report them. It’s advisable to report a collision no later than 24 hours after the incident took place.
By reporting a car accident as soon as possible, you’re showing transparency to your car insurance provider. It also speeds up the process of fixing your car if it was damaged.
Reporting it quickly will also help ensure that the details of the incident are fresh in the minds of those involved.
In your report to the Gardaí, you will need to provide personal information and details about the car, including:
- Your name and address
- The car’s registration number
- Where your car is kept
- Details of your car insurance and the date your policy expires
8. Contact your insurer and make a claim if necessary
Contact your insurer and inform them that there has been an accident.
The course of action you choose to take will depend on whether you were at fault or not.
If the accident wasn’t your fault, you’ll have two options:
- Option 1: Claim directly from the other driver’s insurer
- Option 2: Claim from your own comprehensive policy
If you choose the second option, your insurer will recoup its costs from the third party. You should note, however, that until your insurer recovers any money it has paid out, the incident will count as a claim.
As a result, your no-claims bonus could be temporarily affected and you’ll have to pay your policy excess.
If the accident was your fault, you must inform your insurer as soon as possible. They can look at how to cover any costs that are owed to third parties.
If you’re making a claim, you should provide your insurer with your policy information and the information gathered at the accident. This includes:
- Your policy number
- Details of what happened, where it happened and who was involved
- An account of the damages sustained
- Details of the type of vehicles involved in the collision
- Details of any damage, including photos of the accident
- Details of any emergency services involved or Garda Pulse Reference number (where applicable)
- Any supporting documentation you have available
Your insurer will explain how the accident will impact your insurance and your policy.
Regardless of whether you decide not to make a claim on your insurance or intend to pay for the damage yourself, you still need to notify your insurance company of the accident, because the other driver may later make a claim.
Repairing your car
You can choose a Vehicle Body Repairer to undertake repairs to your car, or go with a repairer your insurer recommends. Insurers - whether it's your own or the other driver’s - must meet all reasonable costs of repairs.
What should you do if you’re injured?
You should try and see a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident. Car crash injuries range from minor scratches to long-term injuries, or permanent disabling conditions.
Some injuries might not be visible and symptoms may only appear after the initial shock has subsided, such as whiplash.
If you go to the doctor soon after the crash, this will stand to you if you need to make an injury claim.
What happens if you were hit by an uninsured driver?
While insurance is mandatory to drive on Irish roads, some drivers take the dangerous risk of driving without it.
In fact, recently released data from the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) has revealed that the number of uninsured private vehicles in Ireland reached 174,177 in 2021, a jump of more than 23,000 vehicles since 2018.
If you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver, make sure you report it to the Gardaí as soon as possible.
The MIBI is a non-profit making organisation that compensates victims of uninsured driving.
If you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver, the MIBI will help you.
The MIBI aims to fairly and promptly compensate victims of uninsured and untraced driving, and reduce the level of uninsured driving.
To make a claim, you should fill out a claims form with the MIBI. It is best to submit a claims form as soon as possible after the accident so that the MIBI can begin its investigation as soon as possible.
To fill out a claims form or find out more, visit the MIBI website.
What should you do in the case of a hit-and-run?
If you were unfortunate to be involved in a hit-and-run and the other driver has fled the scene, don’t panic. The MIBI also looks after claims for victims of hit-and-runs as well.
As above, don’t forget to report the incident to the Gardaí.
What should you to if you're in a single-vehicle accident?
If you have damaged an unoccupied car or someone’s property:
- Take photos of the damage, so that any later claims can’t be exaggerated.
- Leave a note with your insurance and contact details somewhere that the other party can easily find them, such as under the windscreen wiper.
- Never assume that everything will be fine and drive off without doing the above.
What should you do if you come across the scene of an accident?
If you happen to stumble upon the scene of a collision, try to remain calm and help as much as you can.
- Stay calm: Before doing anything, do your best to assess the scene and stay calm. If there are already people assisting at the scene, you may not need to stop.
- Park safely and warn other road users: Just like if you were in a crash, find a safe place to park and switch on your hazard warning lights. If you have a reflective advance-warning triangle, you can place this on the road, but not on a motorway.
- Check for injuries: Don’t move any passengers with injuries unless they are in further danger. You should aim to keep those injured warm.
- Call for help: Call 999 or 112 for emergency services and give the operator as much information as possible about the accident and the location.
- Stay at the scene until help has arrived: Once emergency services have arrived, you’re free to go. The Gardaí may want to speak with you about what you know.
Find the best car insurance for you
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Simply head over to our car insurance page and tell us about your driving history and your vehicle.
To learn more about the ins and outs of this easy and free-to-use tool, read our step-by-step guide on our car insurance service.
Uncover more about car insurance
If you found this guide helpful, why not take a look at the other guides in our car insurance series?
- Check out our car insurance Quickstart Guide to learn all about our car insurance service and top tips.
- Car insurance terminology won’t leave you scratching your head after you read our guide on common car insurance terms.
- You can tailor your car insurance policy to suit your needs, read about the optional extras available to you in our guide.