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Stopping at the Scene of an Accident

Being involved in a car accident is stressful enough as it is without all the legal issues that come with it. But, it’s important to remember that almost all accidents have legal consequences attached to them.

Criminal charges

If you have been driving without a license or have been drunk while driving you could be slapped with a criminal charge of culpable homicide. Not nice.

Civil claims

There is also the ‘civil consequences’ side of things you may have to deal with. Claims for things like damage to property, or personal injury, tend to crop up even if there aren’t criminal charges involved.

The law in South Africa has set out a neat list of things you need to do if you’re involved in, or are part of an accident in any way. This applies when you’re on a public road and if someone is killed, injured or any of their property or animals are hurt or damaged.

If you are involved in an accident, you need to: 

  1. Stop your vehicle - immediately
  2. Help those who have been injured in the accident if you can
  3. If someone is hurt, find out what’s wrong with them and to what extent
  4. Don’t drink any alcohol or take any drugs unless, they’re given to you by a medical professional to treat an injury or help if you’re suffering from shock.
  • On that note, if a police officer asks you to be examined by a medical professional, you shouldn’t drink any alcohol or take any drugs before they examination you. You will also need to be completely sober when giving information to an officer. The information you'll need to give is outlined below.
  1. Give the following information freely to anyone who requires it:
  • Your name and address
  • The name and address of the vehicle's owner if it is not your own
  • The vehicle's registration number

Reporting the accident

For whatever reason, if you decide that you don’t want to give the above info to a police officer or traffic officer, you need to report the accident at a police station within 24 hours. Oh, and don’t forget to take your driver’s licence with you. That's important.

When you are giving your details to a police or traffic officer at the scene of the accident you need to present your driver’s licence to them – if you don’t, it’s actually seen as an offense. That’s a good reason to always travel with your driver’s licence on you.

If you’re hurt really badly and can’t give your details to an officer at the scene, and you can’t make it to the police station to report the accident, you need to report it as soon as you can.

What happens if you don't stop?

Just a word of warning: If you’ve just been involved in an accident (meaning you’ve either collided with a vehicle or another vehicle has hit you) if you don’t stop after the accident as is required by the law, you set yourself up to be prosecuted. If you’re convicted, you can be fined up to R36 000.00, or sent to prison for up to nine years… or both. It’s best to just stop after you’re in accident.

If you didn’t stop because you honestly didn’t know that you were just in an accident, then you’ll need to prove that you didn’t know. If you’re able to do this then you will be able to side-step being prosecuted. If you can’t prove that you didn’t know that you were in an accident though, then the court will take it that you were aware of the accident and you’ll be liable for a hefty fee and possibly jail time.

What if you didn't collide with another vehicle?

At this stage you may be wondering what the point is of stopping and reporting an accident if you crash into a tree or if you damage only your own car. In this case (if you don’t hurt anyone, or just hurt yourself) by law you don’t need to stop. If you collide with someone’s wall or property though you must stop and report the incident at the nearest police station. It’s the right thing to do.

Help the injured

After an accident, the first thing you need to do is to see whether anyone is hurt and how badly. After that you need to try and help those injured if you can. If you don’t have the foggiest idea about helping someone out with first aid, rather don’t do anything. Often someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing in first aid can do more damage than good and aggravate an injury.

So if you don’t know how to help, phone an ambulance as soon as possible so that those injured can get qualified help quickly. Unless your cellphone isn’t working and you need to go get help, then you should stay at the accident scene until a police officer says you can leave. It is very important to either help, or try and get help for those injured. If you don’t, you can be criminally charged for not helping.

What if no one was injured?

If you are in a car accident where two cars are involved, but no one is injured, if both the drivers decide to settle payment for damages on their own, and don’t want to claim against each other, then no one needs to call the police. The accident still needs to be reported within 24 hours of the accident though, by both drivers, not just one. Even if you have agreed to settle payment for damages on your own it’s still illegal if you don’t report an accident where another person, or their property, has been injured or damaged, even if both drivers have agreed that they don’t want to take legal action.

In a nutshell, when in an accident where others are involved, always stop, try and help the injured, and then report the accident.

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Cape Town with its towering Table Mountain really has a unique situation as nature and urbanity converge. This makes it great for anyone wanting to hike or trek but not venture too far from the city. This has made it a leading tourist destination for people wanting literally the best of both worlds, stay at boutique hotels, eat at world class restaurants and hike some of the most picturesque trekking trails in all of South Africa, this is the reality that is Cape Town.

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