Solicitor and biker Steven Hinchliffe outlines some of the issues that should be considered following the unfortunate event of a road accident, plus offers guidance on the initial steps to take.
What to do immediately after the accident
Before you think of anything else, switch off your bike and get away from any fuel spill. Then take a note of relevant details: it’s useful to keep a pen and paper under your bike seat, together with a copy of your insurance certificate, for this type of situation. If you are injured or in shock you may not be able to obtain all the information you need, or maybe overlook things in the immediate aftermath, but it is important to record as much of the following as possible:
■ Date, time and exact location.
■ Names, addresses and contact numbers of everyone involved – e.g. drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Make sure you have details of the owner of each vehicle as well as the driver, particularly if it is obviously a vehicle used for work.
■ Names, addresses and contact numbers of independent witnesses – i.e. people who saw what happened and do not know any of the parties involved. If there is any dispute about the accident circumstances, their evidence may be vital.
■ Details of the vehicles involved – especially registration numbers, but also the make, model and colour, and the number of passengers.
■ Insurance details of the other drivers (company name and policy number).
■ If anyone admits responsibility, write down his or her actual words.
■ Try and remember/ascertain whether headlights and indicators were being used.
■ General conditions – e.g. the state of the road; the weather; was there good visibility; was it light or dark and were any streetlights on?
■ If the police attend, the officer’s collar number and address of their police station.
■ Details of any other emergency services attending the scene.
■ Identify any damage to the vehicles involved.
■ Was anyone injured?
If you have a camera (perhaps on your mobile phone) take some photographs, including the general location, any skid marks, the position of each vehicle and any damage caused.
It is very important that you do not get angry or use any form of force or violence, whatever the cause or consequence of the accident. This could have a serious affect on your credibility as a witness to the events.
Unless it is absolutely safe to do so (e.g. there is minimal or no damage to your bike, and you are not injured), do not attempt to ride off. If you do you are likely to put yourself and other road users at risk.
While matters are still fresh in your memory
■ As soon as you can, write a detailed note of what happened, what you believe was the cause of the accident, what was said and by whom.
■ Include details of the type of road you were on and the speed limit, the direction in which each party was heading and estimate the likely speed of each vehicle.
■ Were there any man-made or natural features that might have contributed, e.g. the brow of a hill or something blocking a line of sight?
■ Note down any road markings you remember and any defects in the road surface. Also, whether you saw any skid marks. If you have any, refer to your photographs as this could make your description of events easier to follow.
■ Also prepare a sketch plan showing where the accident happened and the positions of all the parties involved. If you need to, return to the scene to refresh your memory.
■ Records made at the time of an accident or shortly afterwards can be extremely useful evidence.
Reporting the accident and providing information
■ If an accident has caused injury or damage to property, it is an offence to refuse to give your details to the other party. If you are unable to do so at the scene, you must provide this information to the police within 24 hours.
■ Do not admit responsibility, as this might affect your insurance cover if there is any dispute about the accident circumstances.
■ Notify your insurers as soon as possible, keeping a record of the time and date of any calls and what was said, and copies of correspondence or forms sent.
■ Check your policy documents carefully to check if there is a time limit for reporting accidents, as insurance companies can refuse to indemnify you if you fail to do so in time.
■ If your insurers want to record the details during a phone call, rather than sending you a claim form to complete, take your time in doing this.
■ Do not be rushed and make sure that you are allowed to give the fullest information.
Repairs and insurance
■ If you have comprehensive insurance, even if you were completely at fault for the accident, your insurer should arrange for your bike to be repaired, subject to you paying the agreed policy excess. Depending on the extent of your cover, your damaged kit might also be repaired or replaced. Your ‘no claims’ bonus is likely to be affected.
■ If the other party was entirely at fault their insurers will pay for the repairs, and in this case there should be no excess to pay and no change to your existing ‘no claims’ status.
■ Many bikes are set up for single rider use, and unless you have made specific arrangements with your insurers, a pillion passenger may not automatically be covered by your policy. If the accident is your fault, you could end up being personally responsible for the repair or replacement of the pillion’s damaged kit and compensation for their injuries. Initially, they would make a claim to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau under the uninsured drivers arrangements, but the MIB is entitled to obtain a personal indemnity from you.
■ However, a word of warning to pillion passengers – if you know before the accident that you are not covered by the rider’s insurance the MIB will be able to avoid dealing with your claim.
Injuries commonly suffered by bikers
■ Road accidents often result in injuries to wrists and arms, the collarbone, the hip, legs and ankles. Neck and head injuries, including concussion, are also common. It goes without saying that if your condition is severe, or if there is significant bleeding or sharp internal pains, you should call an ambulance or seek medical attention as soon as possible.
■ After an impact you may experience an adrenaline rush, which could make you act irrationally and cause your hands to shake. Try to bear this in mind and not panic.
■ Muscular injuries may develop over the course of a few days, and you might later suffer with flashbacks and nervousness. Consider visiting your GP so that a record is made of any physical or emotional symptoms.