It’s a scenario that no one wants to be in, but it happens in the UK every day. You’re involved in a collision, there’s damage, and you find yourself asking, “Someone hit my car. Whose insurance do I call?”
Regardless of the circumstances, you should always call your car insurer if you’re involved in an accident. But it’s also important to understand how different circumstances and insurance types might affect what you decide to do next. Here, we’ll explain what to do after a car accident. We’ll cover the steps if they were at fault, if you were at fault, and what to do if the collision happened while your car was parked.
What do I do if someone hits my car in the UK?
When someone hits your car in the UK, you always have to contact your insurance company to update them. But there are some first steps to take before you get your insurer on the phone.
If you’ve just been involved in a collision, you must:
- Stop your vehicle as safely as possible
- Turn off the engine
- Switch on your hazard lights
- Find out if anyone has been injured or if you need the emergency services
Failure to stop at the scene of the accident is an offence under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act, which covers your duties in case of an accident. The consequences if you don’t stop and give your contact details if asked include a fine, penalty points on your licence, and up to six months in prison.
Once you’re in a safe place, your first call might be to the police or ambulance service. After a collision, call 999 if someone needs medical attention, if you suspect that the crash happened because of dangerous driving, or if the other driver leaves the scene. If a vehicle is blocking the road, you should also call the police, potentially on the non-emergency 101 number, as they’ll need to control the flow of traffic.
After this, talk calmly and respectfully to the other driver or drivers involved in the car crash. According to Citizens Advice, you should not apologise or admit fault at the scene of an accident. Instead, take note of the following details.
It’s the job of your insurance companies to decide whose fault the accident was, and they’ll need the following information to do so:
- The name, address, and contact number of the other driver (or drivers) involved, and ideally the contact details of anyone who saw the accident so they can give an eyewitness account later
- The other driver’s insurance details
- The registration number, make, model and colour of the other vehicles involved
- The time the accident took place
- The weather and road conditions
- Photos of the scene and the damage
- Dashcam footage
- A diagram or sketch of what happened immediately before the collision
Call your own insurer with this information. Even if it’s the other driver’s insurance company that will ultimately cover the costs, your insurer will be the one to get in touch with them.
What happens next can vary according to the circumstances and how the drivers involved have insured their vehicles. Let’s look at three common scenarios.
What happens if someone hits your car and it’s not your fault?
If your car is damaged and it’s the other driver’s fault, you should call your insurance provider with as much information as possible. You’ll need this information to make what’s called a “non-fault” claim, which is where your insurance company claims the money from the other motorist’s insurance.
If the accident happened on the road (that is, while you were driving rather than while the car was parked) and you’re not to blame, you should be able to get compensation no matter what type of car insurance you have. Third-party insurance — the most basic type of car insurance that all drivers need to use the road legally — will cover you here.
Read more: The 3 types of car insurance explained
What to do if your car is hit by an uninsured driver
The situation can be more complicated if the at-fault motorist is uninsured. This is because your insurer won’t be able to claim money from their insurer. If you have comprehensive insurance, your provider might cover your claim.
If you only have third-party insurance, if the other driver was uninsured, or if they’re a runaway driver who leaves the scene of the accident and can’t be traced, you should contact the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). The MIB is a not-for-profit organisation that works with the UK government to compensate the victims of uninsured or untraced road users.
Remember, driving without insurance is a serious offence. Penalties start with a fixed £300 fine and six points on your licence. But if it goes to court, the fine is unlimited and you could be disqualified from driving.
Someone hit my parked car. Whose insurance do I call?
Another common scenario is returning to your vehicle to discover that it’s been damaged while it was parked.
If someone hits your car off-road, you’ll still need to call your insurer. They’ll ask for as much information as you can give them so they can process your claim or advise you on the next steps.
Legally, the person who caused the damage has to stop and either inform you of what’s happened or leave their details so you can contact them. It’s then their responsibility to contact the police (using the 101 number) to make an accident report, and then they’ll have to call their insurer, too.
If the other driver doesn’t do this, however, you’ll have to try to find evidence for your potential insurance claim another way.
- If the accident happened in a town centre, ask if anyone working in a business nearby saw it happen.
- If there are CCTV cameras, ask for footage. Because of GDPR, they might not be able to give the footage to you directly, but they will be able to hand it to the police if it’s formally requested.
If you have comprehensive insurance coverage (also known as fully comprehensive or fully comp), your insurer might pay out to cover the cost of repairs, depending on the terms of your policy.
If the at-fault driver can be traced, their insurance company might also be able to cover the cost of repairs to your vehicle. This only works if they left their information behind or if someone witnessed the accident and recorded details like their number plate. You might also find that some third-party policies only cover accidents that take place while both vehicles are on the road.
Either way (and even if the damage is minor and you plan to cover the cost yourself), you need to contact your insurer as soon as possible to report the incident. If you don’t, you could invalidate your insurance contract.
Does your insurance go up after a claim that’s not your fault?
There’s a very high chance that your insurance premiums will go up after your car is involved in a collision. You may also lose your no-claims bonus — even if you weren’t at fault.
Your insurance premiums are based on your insurer’s calculation of the risk of having to make an insurance payout if they take you on as a client. Once they make a payout (or once you cover the cost of repairs yourself), they could decide that there’s a higher chance of you being involved in another accident in the future, and your premiums might go up.
The car accident was my fault. What happens?
You might still be asking, “What happens if I’m at fault in a car accident in the UK?”
In this case, the advice is still the same. Don’t admit fault or apologise at the scene, and report the accident to the police and your insurance company. Your insurance company will note it on your insurance history, and they’ll list you as “at fault”. You’ll also probably have to go to your local police station and present some documents, including your insurance certificate, so that you can prove that you weren’t driving without insurance when the accident happened.
If you cause an accident, comprehensive insurance may well cover you, but it’s important to know that third-party insurance will only cover the costs for the other driver.
And if you’re wondering, “Should I talk to the other insurance company after an accident?” the answer is no. Although you should get details of the other driver’s insurance at the accident scene, it’s not your responsibility to contact them. Even if the other driver’s insurance company will ultimately cover the costs, your insurer will be the one to get in touch.
Do I have to report a car accident to my insurer?
No matter who was at fault, and what type of insurance you have, you must always report a car accident to your provider. You don’t necessarily have to make a car insurance claim, and for minor damage, you might decide that it’s not worth it, but you must report that the incident happened and give full details of what occurred.
So, how long after a car accident can you claim on insurance in the UK?
The paperwork for your insurance policy will specify how long you have to report an accident, but it’s always best to do this as soon as possible. Some policies may give you a two-week window, but most specify 48 or even 24 hours.
According to UK law, you can make a personal injury claim for up to three years after a car accident. If you want to claim for damage to your vehicle, the limit might be much shorter, but it depends on your insurance provider. The best way to find out is by contacting your insurer directly.
It’s also important to know that if you switch insurance providers in the five years after the accident, you must tell your new insurer about what happened.
In summary: Whose insurance should I call after an accident?
You should tell your own insurer if your car has been in an accident. They’ll help you to make a claim (if you choose to do so), and will liaise with the other driver’s insurance directly. They’ll also advise you what to do if your car was hit by an uninsured driver, if it was parked at the time, or if the accident was your fault. Different processes will apply to each scenario.
You should not contact the other driver’s insurance yourself — these negotiations will take place strictly between the two companies.
Searching for the right car insurance? Talk to the experts at Howden today.