What you need to know if you were involved in an accident
According to the National Road Traffic Act: Section 61 Accidents and Accident Reports, there are certain things you can do to protect you against unnecessary worries and will give your insurance company enough information to begin processing your claim as smoothly and quickly as possible if you’ve been involved in an accident.
What to at an accident scene:
Stop. Don’t drive away from the scene.
If you've been involved in an accident that causes injury to or the death of anyone, or which causes damage to property or any animal, you're required by law to stop your vehicle.
Help anyone who is hurt.
After you have stopped, you need to find out if anyone is hurt and help them as much as you can. You also need to call emergency services. The City of Cape Town's emergency number is 107 on a Telkom landline or payphone or 021 480 7700 on a cellular/ mobile phone. You can phone the SAPS on 10111.
If you don't know anything about first aid, be careful not to do anything that might make the injury worse.
Unless you yourself need to go for help, you must stay at the scene until a police officer says you can leave. You can be criminally charged for failing to help anyone who is hurt in the accident.
Find out what the extent of the damage is.
You'll need to find out how much damage has been caused to property. You need to give your name and address and vehicle registration number to anyone who might need them.
The relevant information you need to get
If you’re involved in an accident, you should try to get the following information from all parties involved and witnesses:
- full names,
- ID numbers,
- telephone details, and
- vehicle registration numbers.
You should also get:
- descriptions of the vehicles,
- details of police and traffic officers and ambulance personnel, and
- details of tow truck personnel.
This information will help you if you want to make a claim against your insurance or against the Road Accident Fund, or if you want to claim the costs of repairs from the other party.
Reporting the accident to the police
The police don't have to be called to the scene if no one has been hurt, but the accident must be reported - by both drivers - at a police station or traffic office within 24 hours.
You have to give your name and address and vehicle registration number to the police or traffic officer, either at the scene of the accident or at a police station or traffic office when you report the accident. You must also show your driving licence.
If you’re hurt and can't report the accident immediately, you must do it as soon as possible and explain why there has been a delay in reporting the accident.
It’s an offence not to report an accident in which another person's property has been damaged, or in which another person is injured, even if neither of the drivers intends taking legal action.
Avoid drinking any alcohol or take any drugs that have a narcotic effect unless it's on doctor's orders.
If the police asks you to go for a medication examination, you must not drink any alcohol or take any drugs that have a narcotic effect before the examination and before you have reported the accident.
If anyone's injured in the accident, the vehicles may not be moved before the police or traffic officer has arrived and said that the vehicles can be moved.
If the accident totally blocks the passage of other vehicles, the vehicle may be moved sufficiently to allow vehicles to pass, but only after you have clearly marked the vehicle positions (for example with chalk or spray paint).
Be aware of the possible legal consequences
Some of the possible legal consequences following an accident are:
- a criminal charge of driving recklessly,
- a criminal charge of driving negligently,
- a criminal charge of culpable homicide,
- a civil claim for damage to property, or
- a civil claim for personal injury.
Read more about the Regulations In Terms Of the National Road Traffic Act.
What to expect of the of emergency services (provincial and private) attending to an accident scene
Before the ambulance arrives at scene, it’s necessary that a correct detailed description of the incident is given to the Emergency Medical Service’s call takers. The information given to the call takers allows appropriate resources to be dispatched to the scene in a timely manner according to the specifications of the incident.
When an emergency resource such as an ambulance arrives on scene, it’s requested that the patient be ready to go to hospital and have all the necessary documentation at hand such as an ID document/card/book.
Private ambulances / provincial ambulances
Ambulances are dispatched to any incident that’s registered with the Emergency Medical Services call centre, by means of dialling the emergency numbers 10177 and 112. Once the call has been logged on the service board, an ambulance will be dispatched to the incident as soon as possible. This will depend on how busy the service is at that moment.
Calls are prioritised according to the severity of the incident. It’s therefore important to provide correct and honest details on the condition of the individual/s involved as this determines the priority of the incident.
Protocol systems are set in place to provide emergency medical care to those who urgently require it, depending on the condition of the patient:
- Priority 1: Life-threatening emergencies (including any traumatic incident where there’s excessive loss of blood and/or in the circumstance where someone isn’t breathing), or
- Priority 2: Non-life threatening emergencies (including abdominal pain or a dislocation of a finger).
This is, however, patient dependent and is determined according to the information that’s received by the dispatcher.
There are 2 numbers that are used within the Western Cape for provincial ambulances:
Private services such as ER24 and Netcare 911 can be contacted either independently or through the 112 number.
Costs involved when private / provincial ambulances are dispatched
There are charges involved however doesn’t apply to all cases. Private services charge according to their respective rates, and usually depend on medical aid availability. The provincial government bills patients based on their income levels.
Provincial government ambulances serve the entire society irrespective of medical aid status or not. However, in cases of where there is life threatening conditions any ambulance service is required to offer emergency medical care.
If a regional hospital is unable to treat your particular condition, because it lacks the facilities, you’ll be transferred to a Designated Service Providers (DSP) in one of the main centres.
State ambulances and medical care in state hospitals are often provided free of charge for unemployed people. If you’re employed, you could receive a bill from a state hospital, but the costs are usually a fraction of what private hospitals charge. In an emergency, though, you might not want to wait the possible extra time for a state ambulance.
Determining if a patient has medical aid
In reference to provincial government ambulances this is usually communicated to the health practitioner at the scene of the incident. The health practitioner may ask at the time to provide medical aid details which are documented in the patient report form. However, medical treatment can’t be refused if a patient doesn’t possess a medical aid.
If someone doesn’t have medial aid, private medics stabilise the patient, and patients may also be transported by the private services to a public medical facility even if a patient doesn’t have medical insurance coverage.
Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) are used in circumstances where patients may be hard to reach by land, or where the nature of the illness or injury mandates a time critical transfer. They provide emergency medical treatment and transportation to the nearest most appropriate public medical facilities which are designated for receiving patients via air transport.
These are usually limited to mountain/outdoor emergencies where land ambulances aren’t suited to reach difficult areas.. HEMS may transport a patient to a private hospital that’s equipped to manage the patient if the patient is on medical aid.
This service is funded by government and other sponsors, and doesn’t depend on your patient’s medical aid or insurance. It’s therefore available to everyone. However, costs may be applicable if the patient has medical insurance.
Consent needs to be provided by the legal parents/guardians of the minor involved. However, circumstances may present where this may not be possible. It’s then the decision of the authorised adult to provide permission on the request that the parents are informed. Where no consent is immediately available, practitioners may treat the patient where any delay may lead to permanent harm or death.
If someone is injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident because one of the drivers was negligent, they or their loved ones can lodge a claim with the RAF.
For more information about claims and legal questions, you can visit the RAF website.