Men exchanging details after car accident
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How long do I have to report a car accident to my insurance company?

When the unexpected happens and you’re involved in a car accident, you may be left wondering whether you need to tell you insurer, especially if it was a minor collision. And if you do, do you really need to do it right away? In this guide, we’ll reveal all. 

Do I have to inform the police?

If you have a minor collision and no damage is done to either car, you might think that you can just shrug off what’s happened and carry on. However, before either you or the other driver leaves the scene, it’s important that you exchange details and report what’s happened to the police. 

Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act states that, if you’re driving and are involved in an accident that damages or injures another person, vehicle, animal or property, you have to stop for a reasonable amount of time and share your car registration details, your name and address with ‘anyone with reasonable grounds to be asking for those details.’ 

If you don't do this, you must report the accident at a police station or to a police officer as soon as possible. You must do this in person and within 24 hours. 

If anyone has been injured, you legally have to produce your car insurance certificate and share it with the injured party. If you don’t have it with you at the time, you need to take it to a police station within seven days of the accident taking place. 

If you don’t stop and swap details, or report it to the police, you could later be accused of failing to stop and failing to report an accident. If convicted, you could end up with at least five points on your licence, a fine or even a prison sentence of up to 6 months.[1] 

What should I do if the owner isn’t present?

If you’ve accidentally hit another car and the owner isn’t present, even if it appears no damage has been done, you should at least leave a note on the car windscreen and report what’s happened to the police. If you’re in a supermarket car park, for instance, you could always ask at the customer services desk whether they’d mind making an announcement on the tannoy for the car’s owner to come forward, so you can speak to them personally. 

Do I have to tell my insurer?

Usually car insurance policies state that you must tell your insurer about any accident, even if it was minor and you don’t want to claim on your insurance. If you fail to report it, your insurer could refuse to renew your policy or you could have your cover cancelled, so make it a priority.[2] You could later discover that there was damage and decide that you do want to claim, which is another reason to report it. 

Write a letter to your insurer and clearly explain that you don’t want to claim and it’s for information only. Your car insurance policy will usually explain how long you have to tell them and the timeframe does differ between insurance companies and policies. 

If neither you nor the other driver involved claims, you shouldn’t notice any change to your premium price and you won’t lose your no claims bonus. However, if you were late in informing your insurer and exceeded what they class as a reasonable amount of time, it could have a negative impact and result in you having to pay more when your policy is due for removal. 

In most cases, it can be well worth shopping around for quotes.  You might be able to find the same level of cover for less. Click here to get a quote for Rias car insurance >