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Motor Vehicle Accident – What You Should and Should Not Do

Motor vehicle accidents can be overwhelming and chaotic experiences that no one wants to go through. We all do our best to avoid motor vehicle accidents, but it is an unplanned and uncontrolled event. You may not be able to control future events – you can, however, drive safely, be alert, and obey the law. Being prepared for if you are ever involved in a car accident is the most you can do.

In the event of a motor vehicle accident, it is crucial to remain calm and take specific steps to protect yourself and your legal rights.

What You Should Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident

1. Stay at the Scene of the Accident

In terms of Section 61 of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996, if a driver is involved in a motor vehicle accident where a person or animal has been injured or killed or any property (including another vehicle) is damaged he/she must:

  • stop the vehicle and report the accident
  • ascertain any injuries sustained by a third party and if there is an injured person, render whatever assistance he or she is capable of rendering
  • ascertain the nature and extent of any damage sustained
  • where there are reasonable grounds for a person to request the name, address, and further details of the insured, provide such details
  • if no report is lodged at the scene of the accident, report the accident to the relevant police department within 24 hours of it having taken place (unless prevented by injury from doing so) and produce his or her driver’s license and further details

 Failing to stop is regarded as a “hit and run” and is a criminal offense, even if nobody is killed or seriously injured. If a driver does not stop at the scene of an accident when required to do so by law he/she can be prosecuted and, if convicted, receive a fine or be sent to prison for up to nine years, or both. However, if a driver can prove that he/she did not stop because they were unaware of the accident, they may avoid prosecution.

2. Check on All Passengers and Call the Necessary Emergency Services

If you are not injured yourself, make sure that everyone involved in the accident is okay before assessing the damage to the motor vehicles because someone might urgently need medical attention. If anyone needs medical attention call EMS. The law requires you to call the police if anyone has been seriously injured or killed or if there is significant damage to property. If you suspect any of the drivers involved in the accident are under the influence of alcohol or drugs you are also required to call the police.

Once the police officer arrives at the scene of the accident ask that a police report be filed in and ensure that you obtain the name and badge numbers of the responding officers.

You may also call 112, this will put you through to a call centre that has an automated menu that categorises emergency calls and routes them to appropriate responders.

3. Exchange Information

 You are legally required to provide your information to anyone who has reasonable grounds to request it. Someone with reasonable grounds includes other drivers involved in the motor vehicle accident and law enforcement officers. You should therefore ensure that you provide your name and address to any person who has reasonable grounds for requiring them, as well as the vehicle’s registration number, and the name and address of the vehicle’s owner if it is not your vehicle. As a driver, you will be required to show your license to the police officer.

You should also ensure that you get the names, phone numbers, addresses, identity numbers, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information from all of the drivers involved. If an employee is driving a motor vehicle on behalf of his/her employer, then the details of the driver and the employer must be taken. Ensure that you obtain the contact information from any passengers involved. It is also crucial to gather as much detail as possible from any possible witnesses.

Emotions will be running high, therefore when talking to other people involved, try to be respectful and cooperative.

4. Documenting Evidence

Write down any information that you might feel is relevant, this includes the date, time, and address of the accident; the weather and road conditions when the accident occurred; and if you suspect any of the drivers involved in the accident are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It is critical to take photographs or a video of the scene of the accident. The following should be photographed:

  • the surrounding area with any relevant elements that show the whole scene of the motor vehicle accident
  • and any damage to property from all the different angles
  • the positions of vehicles involved
  • the four sides and corners of each vehicle involved from far enough away to show the whole side or the two sides forming a corner
  • license disks and license plates, signage, branding, and the make and model of each motor vehicle involved.
  • the vehicle/s of attending services (law enforcement, ambulances and/or fire services, towing and recovery units)
  • road surface evidence such as scratch marks, gouges, deposits and fluid spills, tire marks, debris, or any other relevant visible evidence
  • obstructions, road closures, road works, road markings, signs, mile markers, unique features, or traffic or pedestrians, at the scene of the motor vehicle accident
  • driving licenses, Identity documents, or any form of identification of all involved drivers, passengers, witnesses, or involved parties, as far as possible.

You can also draw a sketch plan of the scene of the accident that contains a fixed point so that it can easily be traced and make a statement about how the accident happened. This sketch and statement will serve as a reminder of all the details relating to the accident at a later stage and it will be used for insurance purposes or in any legal action.

What You Should Not Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident

Think before you speak and say less rather than more. An innocent remark may be recorded in police statements or insurance claims and used against you. Do not admit or apologise for anything and definitely do not offer to pay for or fix anything as it could be seen as an admission of fault. Similarly, do not agree to settle anything without first consulting with an attorney. Most insurers also prohibit statements of admission, offer, promise, payment, or indemnity.

If you have insurance, you should ensure that you provide your insurer with the correct information as claims are also susceptible to rejection if an insured provides an insurer with incorrect or dishonest information regarding the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the motor vehicle accident.

Contact Us

Adhering to the above can significantly impact the outcome of your insurance claim or any legal actions resulting from the motor vehicle accident. If you have been in a motor vehicle accident that was not your fault and you wish to take legal action or if you need to defend against legal action taken against you, you should consider seeking legal advice from an attorney.

Our civil litigation department has extensive knowledge and experience in dealing with motor vehicle accidents and they can guide you through the legal complexities and protect your interests. If you need any assistance or guidance with any Civil Litigation matter, please contact us.

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