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The law around road accident offences explained

Being involved in a road accident can be frightening, but you could still be charged with an offence if you did not carry out certain requirements the law demands when an accident occurs.

In 2014, 832 people were found guilty of failing to give their name and address after an accident in England and Wales like the law requires.

If you are concerned about an accident offence you may have committed, then you can get in contact with our advisors who will listen to your situation and either advise you on the best next steps or match you with a specialist motoring offences solicitor to represent you.

Whether you've been involved in a road accident and want to build a defence to charges made against you, or if you’ve been contacted regarding an accident you weren’t aware of, it is important to ensure you are properly represented in order to build a good defence.

What are accident offences?

These relate to the actions you should take around a road traffic accident according to the law, rather than the incident itself. The latter could be covered by things such as careless driving.

It is important to know that road traffic accidents don’t necessarily have to involve more than one vehicle, in the eyes of the law. If you have had an accident that has caused damage to public or personal property, such as a bollard or a lamppost, or an animal, then you may be charged with an accident offence.

Notably, it is possible for people to be alleged to have been involved in an accident that they didn’t know occurred.

The two main categories of accident offences are: failing to stop following an accident, and failing to report an accident. The law requires that anyone involved in a road traffic accident must stop at the scene and report the accident to the police within 24 hours, whether the person caused the accident or not.

However, there are various other activities that can lead to a penalty following an accident. These include:

  • Failing to identify yourself at the scene of an accident
  • Failing to exchange particulars with other drivers or people involved
  • Reporting the accident only by telephone

If you have been charged with an accident offence, there are various factors that can indicate higher level of wrongdoing in court. These include:

  • Evidence of alcohol or drugs in your system at the time of the accident
  • Evasion of a drug or alcohol test
  • Leaving an injured party at the scene
  • Providing false details

What are the penalties for accident offences?

The range of offence seriousness is broad, and, depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may only receive a £100 penalty and five or six penalty points on your licence.

In the most serious cases, the penalties for accident offences can be severe, and prison sentences of up to 26 weeks are issued in cases where serious damage, injury, and bad driving are involved.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states the court can issue the following punishments for accident offences:

  • A fine of up to £2,500
  • Up to 10 penalty points on your licence
  • A driving ban of up to 12 months
  • Up to 26 weeks in custody

What are the defences to accident offences?

The evidence that is gathered following an accident could contain gaps, and if you believe you have been wrongly charged with an offence there are a number of different starting points from which to build a defence.

The allegation of failing to stop or report an accident is viewed seriously by the courts, so it is wise to carefully consider your options with an experienced motoring offences solicitor before you take any action should you be charged.

If you failed to stop at the scene of an accident, you might have had a number of reasons for not doing so the court will accept as part of a valid defence.

For example, if you can convince the court you had genuine cause to fear retribution from other drivers. If you subsequently reported the accident within a reasonable time, then your level of blame in the eyes of the court may be lowered further.

I’ve been charged with an accident offence and I want to dispute it – what should I do?

By contacting First4lawyers one of our expert advisors can help guide you on the right steps to take. We can help you secure an experienced motoring solicitor, which is one of the most important things you can do in the aftermath of an accident.

No matter if you believe you have been wrongly charged, or you are seeking representation to avoid losing your licence in a court case, you can contact First4lawyers.

How to guides

Learn more about this area of law and what you need to know:

How To Begin Fighting A Charge Of Careless Driving

It is possible to contest a charge of careless driving, this guide will help you understand more.

Read more

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