ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS
Road Traffic issues take up a large chunk of our Magistrates Court Roll. Most motor vehicle accidents have legal consequences. These can be criminal liabilities or civil liabilities or both. The Road Traffic Act [Chapter 13:11] governs the duties and obligations of motorists and road users. In addition it sets out the liabilities and consequences for those who are involved in or contribute to a road traffic accident in which a person or animal is injured or killed or any damage is suffered in respect of property.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENT THAT WILL ASSIST YOU IN COURT
1. Section 70 (2) specifies the duties a party to an accident has
a) Stop your vehicle immediately
It is a criminal offence to fail to stop after an accident has occurred. Such an offender may be liable to prosecution and if convicted may be fined or imprisoned for up to a year or be sentenced to both. The only defence for not stopping is to prove that you were not aware that an accident had occurred. This is not an easy thing to do.
b) If a person is involved in such accident, ascertain whether the person has been injured or killed and if a person has been injured, render such appropriate to such person.
It is your duty to find out the nature and extent of the person’s injury and to assist to be best of your ability. If you do not have any knowledge in first aid do not do anything as this might aggravate an injury or cause a new injury which you will be liable for. The best you can do in that situation or any other is seeking qualified assistance by calling an ambulance or any other emergency service. Do not leave the scene until a police officer permits you unless you have to go and look for help for the injured person. You may be fined or imprisoned for up to a year or both for failing to render assistance.
c) If a person has been killed, take all reasonable steps to guard the corpse until the police arrive.
Do not let anyone even people who claim to be the deceased’s relatives claim or remove the body until the police arrive. You may be fined or imprisoned for up to a year or both for failing to do so.
d) It is your duty to provide the following information to the other party in the accident:
i. Your name and address
ii. If you are not the owner of the vehicle, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle
iii. The registration mark and number or other identifying particulars of the vehicle.
iv. The name of the insurer by whom the vehicle is insured, whether in terms of a statutory policy or otherwise, or the name of the giver of a statutory security by whom the vehicle has been secured, as the case may be.
Failure to provide the aforesaid information may result in you being fined or imprisoned to up to a year or both.
2. WHAT TO DO AFTER AN ACCIDENT WHERE NO ONE IS INJURED AND NOTHING IS DAMAGED
Where an accident has occurred and no one has been injured and there is no damage to any property there may be no need to call the police to the scene. The police may not take any measurements or prepare a diagram at the scene of the accident. It is, however, advisable to have a police record of what occurred.
It is prudent to obtain the name, address and telephone number of all persons involved in the accident, drivers and passengers alike. You should also obtain information about insurance by asking to see the insurance papers for all vehicles involved in the accident. This is just in case you find out later that you or a passenger has actually suffered injuries that you were not aware of at the time of the accident. Often, the pain and injuries from motor vehicle accidents become apparent hours after the actual collision.
3. WHAT TO DO WHEN THE POLICE ARRIVE
Firstly, do not move the vehicles!!
When the police arrive, make sure you tell the police exactly what happened. If you do not know certain facts, tell that to the police officer. Do not speculate, guess or misstate any of the facts. If you are asked if you are injured and you are not sure, say you are not sure, rather than no.
You should also make sure statements made by other persons involved in the accident are accurate as well. When the police arrive check to see that the markings are being placed in the correct place. The investigating officer usually will provide all drivers with a police report number, take note of the number. You or your lawyer can use that number later to obtain the police report.
4. COLLECT EVIDENCE
Where possible take pictures of the accident scene so as to assist you in court. You should take pictures of the vehicles if there is visible damage. If you have visible injuries, you should photograph them as well. However, do not by any means touch, remove from or disturb the scene of the accident or interfere in the investigation whilst taking such pictures. If you cannot take pictures at the scene of the accident, take them as soon as possible after the accident.
In addition, look for any witnesses at the scene of the accident. Ask them what they saw and if it is of any benefit to your case ask for their names and contact details. This will assist you in court when proving your case as witnesses play a crucial part in road traffic cases.
The contents of this publication are for general information purposes only. They do not constitute our legal or professional advice. Readers are advised not to act on the basis of the information contained herein alone. Every situation depends on its own facts and circumstances. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage of whatsoever nature which may arise from reliance on any of the information published herein.
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