If an accident takes place and either damage or personal injury is caused then the driver of the vehicle at the time is required to stop at the scene of the accident and make him or herself available to anybody else who may need their details and their insurance policy number. Failing to stop at the scene of an accident is an offence under Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
There is a further obligation (even if you do stop and provide your details) to report any accident that results in injury or damage to a Police Station as soon as reasonably practicable and in any case within a maximum of 24 hours. Failing to report an accident is again another offence under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
The penalties for failing to stop at the scene of an accident and/or failing to report an accident can be extremely onerous because they are intended to deter drink drivers leaving the scene of an accident etc. The penalty point range for these offences is 5 to 10. If both of these offences occur in relation to the same incident then the offences are treated as occurring on the same occasion. That means that if you get a Summons for both offences you are only at risk of points for one of the offences rather than both. The fines involved can be anywhere up to £5,000 and the level imposed will be affected by the seriousness of the offence and your personal circumstances.
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You would have a defence if you could show that you had stopped at the time of the alleged offence and that you had reported the incident in question. The most common defence raised is that the driver of a vehicle was unaware that an accident had taken place. Obviously the more dramatic the impact involved and the level of damage caused the more likely it is that the driver would not have known that an accident had taken place. If you can genuinely argue that you were unaware that an accident had taken place then you have a defence to both of these allegations. If you are not aware of an accident at the time when it occurs but you become aware of the accident within 24 hours of it taking place you are then under a duty to report the accident as if you had known about it in the first place.
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Read this case study on failing to report an accident.