Okay so this is a little random but I think hardcore Spikers know that this blog is a little bit scattergun. And you all hated the slip dress thing so much I’m not writing about clothes again for a bit…
I was in a very mild prang with another car about three years ago and realised that I was entirely unprepared for this event and it’s taken me three years to get an old friend of mine who is a barrister who specialised in road accidents – (but has to remain anonymous in order to be frank) – to write this guide to what to do if you are in one.
This made me laugh and laugh, I hope you enjoy it too.
- Stay calm. Which is obviously impossible, but it’s worth a try. People understandably get v. angry or upset after road traffic accidents and are always saying “I meant to take photos, I meant to look for witnesses” but they didn’t because they’re boiling with rage or weeping. Of course, some people are suffering from shock or other psychological responses and there’s not much they can do.
- Don’t panic if you’ve said “sorry”. Everyone says ‘sorry’ by mistake. It’s basically just what English people of a certain class do … it’s the same when people bang into you on the street “oh sorry – I was in your way” as a passive aggressive way of telling them off. “Oh sorry – you’ve accidentally burgled my house” etc. In truth, if you have said sorry, don’t worry – many judges take a common sense view on this (even if on nothing else) – they tend to think that what you say at the scene is because you’re shocked anyway. Maybe get a video of the post accident chat (though frankly that might make you look like a bit of a psycho in court).
- Photos – take all of them. Take barrels of them right there and then, there’s no excuse if you have an iPhone with any kind of memory. Take them at the scene, showing vehicle location, vehicle damage (close up and far off), the other car, your car, every car. Take a photo with a landmark or prominent building in the frame so it can be keyed to an exact location. Go back and see if you can take a photo of where there’s glass or tyre marks in the road where the cars collided. Some people have videos of the cars, which can’t be bad. Basically, these things stand and fall a lot of the time on objective evidence (given that the actual drivers have all been punching each other, or are paralysed with shock or too busy apologising to everyone), and it’s so frustrating when people take the wrong photo (“oh – I thought you’d want to see the radio dial as I was listening to the Moral Maze at the time”), but not who was where or what. Make sure you keep them properly, send them to your insurer and your solicitor (as they often get lost in between). If it goes to trial, check that the solicitor has them and probably print them out yourself, as everyone will often have just crappy black and white copies that have been triple scanned and photocopied.
- Look around for witnesses – including in your own car. People get told, ‘family members don’t count as witnesses’ – which is bizarre as they count for something at least, even if they are not a vicar with perfect eyesight and a photographic memory who happens to be passing by. Also, get the details of anyone who saw it (though if they’re sensible they’ll have driven off at high speed themselves).
- Once you’ve got home, calmed down, and remembered it all – get it all down on paper and in detail. Make sure it’s dated somehow. Memory is a funny beast, and if it goes on for a bit, you’ll be asked questions three years later like “how many times did the indicator tick on June 23rd” and you’ll be like “I can’t remember my own middle name”. So, descend to absurd detail (though only the stuff you actually remember doing, not the stuff you usually do – it’s a good way to get caught out). If you draw diagrams, think about them properly in terms of location of vehicles and size and such. Some of them basically tell an entirely different story to the written recollection and makes it look like you can’t even get your terrible lies straight in your own head.
**** my friend who submitted this has asked that I include a thing here about how this shouldn’t be used as legal advice. Because lawyers are such fun like that.