Any person normally involved in a small accident with a vehicle or a more serious accident, being a driver, passenger or even an onlooker can be upset or in shock with regards to the situation you find yourself in. As soon as you are over the initial shock it is very important to remember the following to assist you with regards to claiming for damages. It can happen that you are called to be a witness in a criminal or civil court case regarding the accident or you are the Plaintiff or Defendant in a civil matter and then you need proper information to either put a proper case before court to proof your claim or to be able to properly defend yourself against a claim or even criminal charges.
- Ensure safety first
In the interest of safety of yourself and other traffic stop your vehicle and switch on your hazards to warn other drivers. Climb out of your vehicle, if it is safe, and check for injuries to any-one.
If the vehicles are disrupting traffic attempt to move the vehicle if possible BUT make sure to document the initial position of the road as after accident by for instance taking photographs of the damages caused and scene.
Do not leave the scene if the situation is serious and especially if injuries. Phone the police in matters with major damage in such situation to enable them to notify emergency services and to make proper notes regarding the scene of the accident. This will also enable the police to take witness statements. If the damage is not that significant and no injuries then the matter can be reported at the police station within 24 hours.
Get the details
At this point, without a legal representative at the scene do not discuss whose fault the accident might be with anyone except the police, your insurance or your attorney.
Co –operate with emergency services personnel and police who respond to the scene.
Ensure to take note of the following information from the scene and person and make notes:
- All road signs, landmarks, intersections, time of day and weather as this will have to be detailed in the accident report.
- Full names and ID number of the other vehicle’s driver
- Car registration number, license disc details, make, model and colour of car
- Address of vehicle’s owner and/ or driver
- Insurance company details
- All contact details that can be obtained
- Date and time of the accident
- Information of any eye witnesses
- Take photographs from all angles of accident scene if possible including damage and injuries.
- Make sure accident is reported to the police properly within 24 hours
The only exception is that if the accident occurs over a weekend or public holiday the accident should be reported on the first working day after the accident if no person was killed or injured, BUT if possible rather do the reporting as soon as possible.
After reporting the matter be it at the scene or the closest police station you have to make notes of the following and keep for future reference or your own insurance and possible third party claims:
- Details of the police officer spoken to and to whom your statement was given
- Accident report reference number and if possible request a copy of the accident report
- Determine damages
Attempt to get at least two proper quotes regarding damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident regarding repair / replacement.
Further costs to be determined or taken into consideration can include reasonable towing, renting of other vehicle and storage fees.
If you are insured you claim from your own insurance but if you are not insured damages are claimed from the person that caused damages.
Remember we all have a duty and right on public roads to act reasonably and can we expect other road users to do the same.
However this does not relieve a driver from the duty to appreciate that other drivers may act unreasonably and to provide for such a contingency by taking all possible reasonable steps to avoid any accident or collision caused by another driver’s negligent behaviour.
Reference / Sources
The Law of Collisions in South Africa, 7th Edition
National Road Traffic Act 1996