First of all we should be clear about the laws concerning driving on private land. If the land is yours and is not accessible to any members of the public, then you don’t need insurance or even a driving licence to drive a vehicle on it. That being said, few people have private land that is not accessible to the public.
What is private land that is accessible to all?
Private land that the public is able to use might be a car park, whether owned privately by individuals (think of pub car parks), or municipal car parks. A private campsite, for example is not really ‘private’ in the eyes of the law, so you must have insurance and a driving licence to drive in one, as you must also have in other privately-owned land that the public can access.
Accidents in car parks and public highways
Car-park accidents are fairly common and usually minor ones, involving a scrape or perhaps an indentation. Unfortunately however, tragic accidents occur in car parks as they can almost anywhere else. Because of the limited space and the fact that cars are often tightly packed means that accidents can and do occur. Visibility can be limited because of this and care should be taken when reversing out of a space or when entering one. The police will seldom attend an accident in a car park (or other privately-owned places) as people are unlikely to be injured in what should be a low-speed accident.
If you are involved in an accident on a public highway which involves a motorised vehicle (including motorbikes) you must stop and find out if anyone has been injured. If someone has been hurt, then you are legally obliged to inform the police of the accident. They will attend the scene and carry out investigations into the causes of the accident. When their investigations are complete they will compile a report which will be needed if you (or another person) is to make a personal injury compensation claim. The police should also attend an accident on private land if anyone is injured.
Because the police probably won’t be involved in an accident on private land, your insurance company and that of the other person involved in the collision will decide who was to blame for the accident. You may feel that it is worth reporting the accident to the police (within 24 hours of its occurring) just in case the person in the other vehicle decides at a later date to make a claim against you.
What to do immediately after an accident
Whether your accident occurred on private land or a public highway, you should stop and exchange details with the driver of the other vehicle. If you were not present when your car or motorbike was struck by another, the driver may have driven off without leaving a note giving a contact number, or insurance details. Unfortunately if this happens, your insurance company will have to pick up the tab, and this may result in your premiums being raised.
If the other driver has no insurance then you should file a report with the police. As they probably won’t attend an accident that happened on privet land, then you should go to your nearest police station. If you do this you may be able to protect your insurance cover.
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau
If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or one that cannot be traced, it may be possible to make a personal injury compensation claim through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), which is the last resort for motorists involved in such accidents. Although you do not actually need the services of a road traffic accidents solicitor to file a claim through the MIB (in theory), you may well find that in the long run it is easier to hire one to represent you as the form-filling can prove somewhat complex. If no one was injured in the accident you can claim compensation for damage to personal property. However, you need to inform the MIB of your intent to make a claim within two weeks of the accident, so the sooner you do this, in writing, the better. You will need to file your claim within nine months.
What to do after an accident on private land
You should take photographs of the scene of the accident which may be used as supporting evidence for any claim that you may wish to pursue. If you can, ask for witnesses and get their names and contact details. There may be CCTV footage of the accident in which case it may be possible for the police to trace the other driver. If you, or anyone else involved in the accident have been injured, then you should seek immediate medical treatment, as a medical report will be required if you decide to file a personal injury compensation claim.
If you have an accident on private land, be responsible and leave your details for the other driver if he or she is not in the vehicle. Think how you would feel if someone crashed into your car and then left the scene.