What to do if you get into an accident in South Africa

With Covid-19 affecting the way we choose to travel, more people will opt for driving to their vacation destinations rather than flying, which will see an increase of cars on the roads and in turn could result in more accidents occurring.

This is according to DSC Attorneys partner Kirstie Haslam, who said that during the 2019/2020 festive season there were 1,390 car accidents recorded and 1,617 fatalities.

Of the 2,915 arrests, a total of 1,397 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence, representing 48% of the total.

This could rise with more cars on the road and more drunk drivers endangering lives while there are no breathalysers in action because of Covid-19.

“The settlement of claims arising from a car accident depends on the extent to which each driver is found to be at fault for causing the accident,” she said.

Haslam said that a driver who’s found to be exclusively negligent may be held fully liable for the so-called material damages resulting from an accident – these damages are distinct from those arising as a result of bodily injury, which are recoverable only from the Road Accident Fund.

“Alternatively, each driver involved may be held partially liable. For example, you may be held 30% liable, while the other driver is held 70% liable.”

Haslam said that knowing what to do after an accident is important, especially if you are involved in an accident and wish to claim compensation for personal injury or damage to your vehicle.

Here is Haslam’s checklist of what to do, that she says is useful to print out or store on your phone, and then use as a guide if you’re in an accident.


What to do immediately after an accident

Stop your vehicle safely – If you’re involved in an accident that causes injury or the death of a person or animal, or that causes damage to someone else’s property, you are required by law to stop your vehicle. Make sure you slow down and stop safely, out of the way of traffic.

Ascertain the nature and extent of any injury sustained or damage caused – If someone has been seriously injured, contact emergency services and the police.

Don’t move your vehicle unless it’s a safety hazard to other road users – If your vehicle is obstructing traffic, it may be moved sufficiently to allow vehicles to pass. However, you may move the vehicle only once you’ve marked the vehicle’s original position with chalk, spray paint or other clear markings.

Stay at the scene of the accident – It’s a criminal offence to leave the scene of an accident in which someone is injured unless you yourself need to go for help. Otherwise you’re required to remain on the scene until a police officer tells you that you may leave.

Get the details of the other drivers and vehicles involved in the accident – You’ll need these details to claim from insurance or the RAF. Record the other drivers’ names, identity numbers, telephone numbers, vehicle registration numbers and any other relevant information. If a driver was driving a vehicle on behalf of an employer, record the details of the employer as well.

Get contact details of any witnesses on the scene – Again, you may need witness testimonies to support your claim, so write down the names and phone numbers of all potential witnesses to the accident.

Record the details of the accident and, if possible, take photos – Take photographs and draw sketches of the scene of the accident. Note the weather and road conditions when the accident occurred. If possible, photograph the scene and surrounding area from all angles, as well as any injuries you’ve sustained. Also note the details of any damage to property.

If your vehicle needs to be towed, contact your insurance company before agreeing to let a company tow the vehicle – If your car is insured, check with your insurance company before agreeing to let anyone tow the vehicle. Also, never sign any blank forms that the towing company provides. Unscrupulous tow companies may take advantage of you in this situation. Be sure to remove all valuables before your vehicle is towed.


What to do after leaving the scene of the accident

If you have been injured, consult a doctor immediately – Even if your injuries appear fairly minor, it’s a good idea to have a doctor examine you. Adrenaline after an accident can mask injuries, and some issues, like swelling, may occur only over time.

If you intend to claim compensation for your injuries, it’s important that you consult a medical practitioner as soon after the accident as possible. You will need medical reports to support your claim.

Report the accident to the police – If someone has been killed or injured in the accident, you must report it to the police within 24 hours. If no person was injured or killed, you must report the accident on the first working day following the collision.

Record the name of the police officer who filed your report, and keep a note of the accident report’s reference number – You’ll need these details when claiming from your insurer, the other driver’s insurance company, or the RAF.

Keep potential evidence, as well as medical records and receipts – If you plan to claim damages, don’t discard torn or blood-stained clothing, or any of your notes regarding the accident. Also ensure you keep copies of medical records and any receipts for medical treatment.

Contact your insurance provider – If you plan to claim for damage to your vehicle, or if you anticipate that the other driver/s will want to claim from your insurance, contact your insurance provider as soon after the accident as possible and provide details of the accident.

RAF Claims

Anyone seriously injured in an accident on South Africa’s roads – including drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, can claim compensation from the RAF.

Victims of road accidents can claim for medical expenses, loss of earnings and, in cases involving serious injury, general damages for pain and suffering. If a breadwinner in your family is killed in a road accident, you can claim for loss of support and funeral costs, the legal firm said.


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What to do if you get into an accident in South Africa