Ask LH: Should I Volunteer My Details If I Witness A Minor Car Accident?

Dear Lifehacker, When witnessing a minor traffic accident, what should I do? Assuming both attendees are calm, should I volunteer my details? Does an insurer care about witnesses? Thanks, TrafficTroubled

Car accident image via Shutterstock

Dear TT,

Coming forward as a witness of a minor traffic accident can often make the innocent party’s life a lot easier, but also means you may end up having to deal with their insurance yourself, with no real incentive other than the obvious moral considerations. First off, you are not obliged by law to stop or give your details if you witness a traffic accident — in fact most police guides stipulate that only willing witnesses should be contacted.

It is a good thing to do if you have the time to stop, however — insurers definitely do care about witnesses, as having the contact details for one can make a process much simpler when conflicting reports are given by the two parties. Even if one party verbally accepts fault for the action when you stop, you should still leave at least a phone number (though a name is also helpful) in case they change their tone when reporting the accident to their insurer.

So while it isn’t required of you by law to offer your details when witnessing an accident, it is going to save a couple of other people a big headache through the claim process — and if you find yourself the victim of another careless driver, you’ll most likely hope that someone else feels generous enough to act as a witness for you too.


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