How to legally approach being involved in a vehicle accident

Insurance law expert Kirstie Haslam, speaking on Lunch with Pippa Hudson, shares legal advice on how to stay on the right side of the law when involved in a car accident.

South Africa leads as the world's most dangerous place to drive, with only 31% of front-seat passengers in the country reported to be regularly wearing a seat belt.

The likelihood of getting into a car crash is on the rise as potholes, load shedding and an estimated 57.5% of alcohol-related road deaths continue to make travelling on SA’s roads risky business.

Insurance law expert Kirstie Haslam, speaking on Lunch with Pippa Hudson, shares legal advice on how to stay on the right side of the law when involved in a car accident.

She is a legal specialist in insurance and personal injury law and director of DSC Attorneys.

Here's Haslam's pointers on how to legally approach this dreaded situation.

It is a legal obligation to stop

Haslam says failure to stop is punishable by a fine or possibly a period of imprisonment depending on the circumstances.

If you feel you are being set up or that the accident has been engineered as part of an elaborate plan to corner you, that still doesn't absolve you of your legal responsibilities.

Haslam advises one to go to the nearest police station if you feel you are in danger and stop there.

If involved in a hit and run, the driver must absolutely stop, says Haslam.

Hit and run incidents should definitely be followed up and certainly prosecuted.

Kirstie Haslam, insurance and personal injury law expert

It is in your own interest to report an accident

Haslam says if it is a fatality or a serious injury, you will be required to stay on the scene.

However, the general rule of thumb is that you are required to report it within 24 hours of the accident happening.

If you have two people involved in an accident there’s probably three versions as to how it happened, so you want your version on record as it were.

Kirstie Haslam, insurance and personal injury law expert

You should not say 'I'm sorry' when at the scene of the accident

The words themselves aren’t necessarily a problem but where it amounts to an admission of fault, that’s where it becomes problematic, you certainly shouldn’t be there and then be admitting fault in any respect.

Kirstie Haslam, insurance and personal injury law expert

The lawyer adds that despite feeling overwhelmed and responsible in the actual moment of collision, it does often happen that objective evidence appears at a later stage, which shows a different reality. Therefore, one should not admit fault at the scene of the accident.

It is not so much the expression, which can be in response to seeing someone getting hurt, but rather the admission of fault that can legally disarm you in the future, says the legal expert.

Lastly, collect as much evidence through pictures and contact details such as registration numbers, name, address and all available information from witnesses and parties involved in the accident.

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