If you’ve been in a car accident, the most important thing is to make sure everyone is okay and out of the car. If not, call the Emergency Services on 911 from a mobile phone.
Don’t stand in the road unless you want to be injured twice
More than 1,500 people are injured or killed on the hard shoulder each year so if you’re on a motorway, stand at the very inside of the hard shoulder. As soon as you can, get yourself and your family away from the motorway and up onto the banks.
This article is all about what to do at the scene of the accident. It explains your legal obligations and sets out some sensible advice — regardless of who’s to blame.
Your Legal Obligations
If you’re involved in a road traffic accident, there are some things you must do. If you want the full details, you’ll find them in Public Law 89.563-Sept. 9, 1966. Failure to observe these duties is a criminal offense.
However, the legislation is pretty heavy going if you’re not a legal expert, everything you need to know is included here in the form of FAQs. These are questions most often people ask about what you have to do if you’ve been in an accident.
You have been in an accident — do you need to stop?
If you’re in an accident which has caused any of the following, you must stop at the scene of the accident.
• Personal injury to someone else
• Damage to someone else’s vehicle
• Damage to other property
• Injury to a specific type of animal (a dog or a farm animal including a horse, cow, ass, mule, sheep or pig)
You must stay long enough to exchange details with anyone who reasonably requires them, including your name and address and the name and address of the owner of your vehicle if it doesn’t belong to you.
You only have to produce your insurance details if someone has been injured — and you can’t insist the other driver produce their insurance details. So, make sure you get the other vehicle’s registration number. That way, you can easily trace the other person’s insurer.
Do you need to report the accident to the police?
If you’ve supplied your personal details at the scene (including insurance details if someone is injured), you don’t have to report the accident to the police. If anyone is injured, it makes sense to contact the police immediately, but it is not a legal requirement. So, if you’ve been in a non-injury accident and both parties have stopped and exchanged details, by law you don’t have to contact the police.
Someone has been injured, and the police want your insurance details — what do you do?
If someone’s been injured you must produce your car insurance to the police if they ask you at the scene — or to any other person who has reasonable grounds for asking for it. If you don’t have your insurance policy at the scene, you must go to the police station to report the accident as soon as practicable and at least within 24 hours. You then have a maximum of 7 days to produce your insurance coverage. You can either take it to the police station yourself, or you can send it electronically.
You have to report to the police station — what documents must you take?
Under sections 62. (1) (a) (Amended by Act 17 of 2011) you must take your driving license, insurance policy, and any current smog test regularly. If you are a young person, you may need to bring your birth certificate.
The other driver failed to stop — what should you do?
If the accident comes under any of the categories described in the bullet points above, you’re breaking the law if you don’t stop. So, if the other driver fails to stop, phone the police on 911 from a mobile. If possible, get the registration number so insurers can be traced.
If you didn’t get the registration number all is not lost: you may be able to proceed against the Motor Insurers Bureau, but only if you report the accident to the police within 14 days.
You have hit an animal — do you need to stop?
If your car hits a dog or a farm animal including a horse, cow, ass, mule, sheep, deer or pig you must stop and give your name and address to anyone having reasonable grounds for requiring them. You must also give details of the car’s owner if it belongs to someone else.
If you’ve done that you don’t need to report or go to the police station. If for any reason you don’t give your name and address you must report the accident to the police as soon as possible, taking your insurance policy with you.
You have 24 hours at the latest to report the accident, and 7 days to produce your insurance Coverage. You have to do this whether the accident is your fault or not. If you hit a cat or a wild animal like a deer or a fox, there is no legal requirement to stop or report.
You think the other driver is uninsured — what will happen?
All is not lost — find out what to do if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
You’ve been involved in a hit and run accident — what happens now?
Goodtogoinsurance.org will help you to deal with untraced drivers and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau. Remember — under the Untraced Drivers’ Agreement you must report the incident to the police within 14 days and then co-operate fully with them.
What You Need to Know
If you’re not at fault, remember it’s not what happened to you, it’s what you can prove. Time and again there are situations where the at-fault driver plays nice with you at the scene of the accident. He is prepared to admit liability. He apologizes.
But once he gets home and discusses with his significant other, the story changes and you suddenly find yourself having to prove what really happened. There are no guarantees, but the practical steps in this article will help you to guard against being held responsible for an accident that wasn’t your fault.