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Failing to Report an Accident: Everything You Need to Know

If you are involved in an accident in the UK, you are legally obligated to stop and exchange drivers’ details with any other parties involved in the incident. Additionally, there are certain circumstances where the accident must also be reported to the police under the rules of the 1988 Road Traffic Act. Failing to report an accident could result in serious ramifications including points on your licence, substantial fines and potentially even a prison sentence.

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about reporting an accident including the reporting process, potential penalties for failing to report and what to do if you are facing charges.

Facing a charge of failing to report an accident? Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today 

Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice

What Should You Do if You are Involved in an Accident?

If you are involved in a traffic accident, it is crime to drive away. You must stop your vehicle, check yourself and other parties for injuries and exchange personal and insurance details with anyone else caught up in the incident. In this case, you do not usually have to report the incident to the police unless emergency services are required or there is damage or debris that could potentially endanger other drivers or members of the public.

If you fail to stop, you must report the incident to the police within 24 hours or you will be liable to legal consequences that may include penalty points, a fine, licence disqualification or even time in prison. This second chance exists because some people may panic or experience shock after an accident so they aren’t thinking right.

You must also report the incident if one or more parties does not have the requisite details to exchange or if it wasn’t safe to stop.

What Happens if You Fail to Report an Accident?

If any of the above circumstances relate to the accident you are involved in, you must report it to the police. Failure to do so can result in serious legal ramifications, including:

  • A custodial prison sentence of up to six months. This will not usually be imposed unless you drove away from an accident where someone had been seriously injured. Remember, there could also be additional time added to this sentence depending on the nature of the offence if, for example, you were driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • A fine of up to £5,000. Again, there may be further fines for additional offences you committed during and after the incident.
  • Penalty points. Your licence may also be endorsed with between 5 and 10 penalty points. This can have serious implications on your insurance premiums and other personal matters and may result in disqualification if you have accumulated enough points.
  • Outright disqualification. Your offence may be deemed serious enough for you to be disqualified outright which could potentially affect your job, livelihood and family. Some disqualifications run for a limited time while others are permanent so it is never worth taking the risk.

report accident to the police

How Long do you Have To Report an Accident? 

As explained above, not every accident requires you to report it t the police. However, for those incidents which do need reporting, you have 24 hours to do so before you are in breach of the law. This should be done in person unless you have a valid reason to do it by phone such as if you are in hospital or otherwise incapacitated.

Accidents that must be reported include:

  • Accidents where someone was injured or killed
  • Accidents that left extensive debris or damage 
  • Accidents that cause danger to other road users or members of the public
  • Accidents where you failed to stop because you panicked or were in shock
  • Accidents where you could not exchange details, or the other party was unidentifiable
  • Accidents where it was not safe to stop

Facing a charge of failing to report an accident? Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today 

Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice

Why was the Law First Introduced?

The Road Traffic Act of 1988 was introduced to help make British roads safer with section 170 enforced to prevent and punish hit and run incidents. Hit and runs are responsible for around 5% of all traffic-related fatalities and around 20% of pedestrian fatalities so the legislation is extremely important. 

In 2019 alone, the year before normal road use was hampered by the Covid-19 Pandemic, there were 1,752 reported road fatalities. In addition, 153,158 people were injured in accidents involving vehicles. This is why UK road traffic and safety laws are so stringent and why the penalties for offences like failing to report an accident are so serious. If you are not aware of the laws, it is highly advisable that you educate yourself sooner rather than later because you could face some serious consequences if you fall foul of them. 

Why do Drivers Fail to Stop?

Every year in the UK, there are around 20,000 incidents where a driver involved fails to stop. This is around 15% of all traffic incidents which shows the extent of the issue. 

Some people panic immediately after an accident or want to rush to the hospital to have their own injuries assessed. This is a natural instinct and will usually be taken as a reasonable excuse as long as you report the accident to the police within 24 hours. 

Some other common reasons people fail to stop are:

  • Not realising there had been an accident 
  • Thinking the accident was not very serious
  • Being uninsured or not holding a valid driving license
  • Being suspended or disqualified from driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Being in a stolen vehicle
  • Being afraid of the consequences 

legal defence

What are Your Possible Legal Defences for Failing to Report an Accident?

There are some extenuating circumstances that can be argued if you fail to report an accident. These could potentially help you to avoid some of the serious legal consequences you face if you are found guilty of the charge. However, road traffic laws can be very complex and it can be difficult to prove these circumstances on your own without extensive knowledge of the law. That is one reason why hiring an experienced motoring lawyer is so important if you are facing a charge of failing to report an accident. 

Some of your potential defences include: 

  • You were unaware there had been an accident
  • Someone else was driving your vehicle
  • You stopped and exchanged details and thought that was all that was required
  • You reported the accident after 24 hours but as soon as was possible
  • The accident did not occur on a public road
  • There was no damage or injury caused in the incident

The most common excuse given for not reporting an accident is that the driver didn’t know an incident occurred. While this can sometimes be a lie, it is possible that someone driving a lorry or another large vehicle may not notice an incident involving a smaller vehicle or object.

In order to convict you, it will need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt that you knew you had been in an accident and failed to take the necessary steps to report it as required by law. This is where an experienced motoring defence lawyer can be so important because they will be able to assess the minute details of your case and mount a defence that you were unaware of the incident or your obligations. 

Facing a charge of failing to report an accident? Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today 

Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice

How can a Lawyer Help?

If you are charged with failing to report an accident, it is important to seek legal help. A lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights and help you build a defence. This is crucial because many people are unaware of their rights or their potential defences so they end up accepting a plea bargain or even admitting guilt. 

They will have extensive knowledge of the law and be able to guide you through the court process. This is very important because the law can be complex and confusing and defendants can end up making a small mistake that leads to a harsher sentence. 

An experienced lawyer will also have successfully defended people in similar cases. They will be able to use the experience they have gained to help you build a defence and know what strategies are likely to be successful in your case. 

They will also be able to gather and present evidence in your favour, reducing the chances of a conviction. It can be difficult for a normal person to obtain this evidence but it is so crucial to the outcome of a case. 

Finally, a lawyer can take some of the stress off you. They will deal with all the paperwork and court preparation so you don’t have to. This can be a huge relief, especially if the case is going to go to trial.

At Caddick Davies Solicitors, our experienced motoring defence lawyers can help guide you through every step of the process. We have defended hundreds of clients in similar cases and so we know exactly how to prepare your case and maximise your chances of a positive outcome.

hit and run

What Should You do if Someone Hits You and Drives Off?

If you are involved in a hit and run accident, it is important to take the following steps: 

  • Call the police as soon as possible and provide them with as much information about the other vehicle as you can. This includes the make, model and colour of the car, as well as any distinguishing features. These details will help the police to track down the responsible driver so that they can be brought to justice.
  • Check to see if there are any witnesses and note their names, addresses and contact details. These witnesses and their statements can be very useful later as they can help to corroborate your story, especially if the responsible driver is denying all knowledge of what happened.
  • Take photographs of any damage that may have been caused by the accident and of any injury that you or any other passengers in your vehicle sustained. This photographic evidence can be presented to the police as evidence of what happened.
  • If you are hurt in the accident, call an ambulance immediately and seek medical treatment. If there is any delay between when the accident happened and when you seek medical treatment, it is important to ensure that you document this delay as evidence.
  • Contact a solicitor as soon as possible. A solicitor can help you to understand your legal rights and options and will be able to provide you with specialist advice on how to proceed.

Have you been involved in a hit and run incident? Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today 

Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice

Final Thoughts

Failing to report an accident is a serious offence and you can expect to face the full force of the law if you are found guilty. However, there are extenuating circumstances that may be taken into account and could result in your sentence being reduced or your case being thrown out altogether. The best course of action is always to hire an experienced motoring defence lawyer who will be able to prepare your case and give you the best possible chance of a positive outcome. Get in touch with us today at Caddick Davies Solicitors and we will help guide you through every step of the process.

Facing a charge of failing to report an accident? Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today 

Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice


Motoring Lawyer at Caddick Davies Solicitors
Caddick Davies is recognised as one of England and Wales’ leading motoring law firms, offering specialist Speeding Solicitors, Drink Driving Solicitors & Dangerous Driving Solicitors.We provide advice and representation on all motoring offences including speeding, the avoidance of disqualification on penalty points or “totting up” (exceptional hardship), driving without due care and attention (careless driving), dangerous driving, drink driving, as well as a range of services related to medical revocation of a driving licence.
Neil Davies
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