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Car pile up on A road, car written off, TPFT only

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I was in a six car pile up on a local A road last night.

In rush hour traffic on the outside lane, doing maybe 50 mph when suddenly the traffic ahead came to a standstill. 

The car ahead of me made an emergency stop. I followed suit and managed to stop close behind her without making contact.

The car behind me couldn't stop anymore and drove into the back of me with some speed, pushing me into the car ahead of me.


There were further shunts further up the queue, involving six vehicles in total, one assumed to have taken off without providing details.


Police was on site and ambulances. All walking wounded were checked, nobody was seriously injured.


The police made sure everybody received the details of the car ahead and behind of each other


My car is undriveable and was recovered by the police to a nearby holding yard. Potentially a complete write off. Severe damage to the rear and front, driver's door not opening. (assume frame bent)

It's a 12 year old car (Ford fiesta old body style) with just under 95000 on the clock


I have TPFT only so my insurance only took brief details and said they couldn't obviously help with the damage to my car.


When I contacted the insurers (Direct Line) of the party who drove into the back of me they said they couldn't talk to me, I would have to go through my own insurance.

I explained that wasn't so, as I only have TPFT and they wouldn't pursue this for me.

So they said they still wouldn't talk to me and I would have to seek some alternative form of representation. Is that so ? Can I not handle this myself ?

They also said their investigation could take some weeks


I have no car as it is sitting as a potential total loss in a yard, my partner is currently driving me to work and back.


Any ideas what my next steps should be ?


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You will need to handle this aggressively. This means that you will have to attack the person in the car behind you directly and threaten them with a legal action in fairly short order.

You can be certain that they will try to deflected to their own insurer. I would suggest that you ignore this and that you carry on communicating with them and in the New Year send them a letter of claim followed by court papers – assuming that this is something you are prepared to do.

On the basis of what you say, or a legal action then your chances of success would be better than 95%.

I suggest that you go around your vehicle and take photographs. I suppose you can take photographs of any of the other vehicles at the time of the accident – but I suggest that you visit the accident location and take pictures so that you are able then to place things in context.

You need to get confirmation that the car is written off and the value of the car. You will be looking for a replacement value which should also take into account any special work you have had done recently such as new tyres, new exhaust et cetera.

You need to be careful because as it is in storage with the police, you may suddenly find that they are sending you a bill for storage and because you don't have an insurer for this, they will expect you to put your hands into your pocket. Of course you will add this to the bill that you are going to send to the person behind you – but you are under a duty to mitigate your loss so you will need to ascertain the condition of the car and the value of the vehicle as quickly as possible and then give approval for it to be scrapped – but make sure that you have a good paper trail on this. Also I would keep the other side (the person who ran into you) fully appraised as the action that you are taking so that they are offered an opportunity to inspect and to confirm the value and the condition et cetera. If they don't take you up on your offer then that's up to them but at least you will have evidence that you gave them every opportunity to protect themselves or their insurers.


If the person who ran into you must say that it wasn't their fault and it was the person behind them – then that's tough on them. They will have to see the people behind them.

That should be enough to get you started.

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Also keep a detailed account of any expenses that you are being put to while you don't have a vehicle.

However, be aware that as you are under a duty to mitigate your loss, once it is established that the car is a loss then you will have to take reasonable steps to secure another vehicle because you won't be able to keep on incurring fares or hire car fees or anything else indefinitely. If you don't have the money to purchase a new vehicle at the moment then I'm afraid that is likely to be rather tough on you. Impecuniousoty of a victim is not generally considered to be the responsibility of a tortfeasor.


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You might also like to contact the driver of the vehicle into which you were pushed and see if you can obtain a confirmatory statement that you had stopped behind them before the impact that pushed you into them.


Often in these circumstances the sound of locked tyres will alert a driver and they will automatically look in the rearview mirror. The insurance of the vehicle in front will wish to claim off YOUR insurance (The Third party), so your own company will become involved to that extent and may wish to pass that indemnity to the vehicle that hit you.


Unfortunately where there are multiple vehicles involved it often takes a long time to sort out and often results in 'knock for knock' within the companies involved to reduce litigation costs. This is why I would advise getting a statement, if at all possible, from the driver in front or any other witness as quickly as possible.

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That is an excellent suggestion – and I wish I'd thought of it myself!

I suppose what is being foreseen here is a very possible scenario that the guy behind you will agree that he went into the back of you but he won't agree that he is responsible for your frontal damage.

Also, even though you were pushed into the guy in front, it may well be that the guy in front's insurer will be looking at you – and in that event, your third party insurance will be invoked and you stand a big risk of losing your no claims bonus.

Absolutely right about all the complications and the knock for knock arrangements et cetera. This is especially why you need to be attacking the driver behind you to make sure that you're not part of this process. In fact if you take your own action without the burden of an insurer around your neck, you may be able to produce a disruptive effect which will get everybody moving on to get it sorted out.

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Thanks for the comprehensive replies.

I will go through it in detail tonight.


The lady in the car in front already made a statement to the police (as we all did ). It would appear I didn't push her into the car in front, my impact into her was a lot less severe than the one I sustained from the back,  so she hardly moved forward at all and the damage to her rear (rear of her car...) was not that bad at all. Her car remained driveable and she drove home in her own car after all the admin at the roadside was completed.


My car got sandwiched and is the worst of the three in this sub section of the accident as I got front end and rear end damage. My airbag didn't go off funnily enough, but the airbag of the car that hit me from behind did go off.


The car behind her was actually an unmarked police car and the last in the accident domino. He immediately put his blue lights on and no further cars crashed into the back then. 

So the lady that hit me was the last in the pile up and I was second last. 


I don't even know why everyone hit their brakes , the root cause was much further on ahead.


I have been told I will get a notice from the recovery company or police about the recovery of my vehicle from the scene of the accident, but apparently that needs to be included in my insurance claim ?


I think I will SORN the damaged vehicle , as it is in my opinion not going back on the road. It will be for pretty much sure a write off and I don't want to continue to pay tax for it while it sits in a compound somewhere.


I will be getting a new vehicle on Saturday, my partner found a nice one locally, so I will transfer my insurance onto the new vehicle , leaving the wreckage uninsured in the compound, but I hope that won't be a problem.


I also have protected no claims bonus (six years) , so my insurers say it is going to stay at that.





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Do I understand then that the police have all statements and you do not have any?

I can predict that getting copies of the statements from the police will be extremely difficult and very time-consuming.

I suggest that you approach the other parties directly – and very gently and asked them for statements. People don't like making statements without help and so very often the best thing to do is to arrange to meet them and take the statement from them in your own writing – but get them to sign it.

If you have never done this before then the statement should start approximately –


My name is XXX, I live at XXX.
On such and such a date I was driving home from work/whatever they were doing in heavy traffic at about XX o'clock heading north/south et cetera along the a 406.

I came to a halt in a traffic jam but within 10 seconds or so I heard a bang from behind me and then a couple of seconds later I felt an impact on the back of my car and I discovered that the car behind me which had stopped in the traffic had itself been hit from behind which had then pushed it into the rear of my vehicle.


You could ask them to sign it is a statement of truth – but this sounds rather formal and puts people off. You could also ask them to agree that they are prepared to give evidence if necessary – but once again this frightens people and makes them feel that they are going to get involved in some procedure which could cause problems in terms of time or money et cetera.

A simple statement is all you need. If you need more later on then you can go back later on but you have their basic account of the facts signed and dated and it is almost impossible that they will come back to you and say will actually what I signed before was untrue.

I always believe in going to take statements directly. You do the writing, get them to sign it and then give them a copy by way of a telephone photograph or something. The best thing to do is to ask them if they would like to write the statement or if they would prefer that you do it. In my experience, 99% of people will ask you to do it. Many people will be ashamed of their writing, for instance.

If you are a male and your witnesses a female then it could be an idea to go along with a female partner or female friend and maybe me any coffee bar somewhere where you're comfortable and it is informal.

If you can get this statement then you are home dry – bar the shouting.

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Due to the nature of the accident (vehicles and debris blocking one lane of a dual carriageway for quite a stretch) in the dark with very little light, there was loads of police, ambulance, Highway Agency and walking wounded all  milling around. 

The police went from vehicle to vehicle talking to the drivers, breathalising everyone and there will be an incident report compiled but apparently one has to pay to get it.


It was the police who ensured everyone got the details of the driver immediately in front of them and behind.

I guess all the drivers were in a bit of shock, and it also emerged that most likely one person just drove off without waiting to provide his or her details.

There was one car pretty much at the front of the accident domino (a Fiat 500) who clearly was hit in the back but no one who actually did it, so that person must have been the one who took off after the accident.


All the other vehicles could be accounted for (it could be established who hit who apart from the Fiat 500 who was hit with no car left there to account for this)


We were all checked by ambulance staff and first responders, so there was not much time to talk to other drivers directly.

I have two post it stickies from the police with the details of the lady that hit me in the back and a post it sticky with the name  of the lady and registration of the vehicle I was pushed into.


So I do not have the address details of the lady in front of me, just her name and the vehicle registration. 

I have more comprehensive info for the lady that hit me (name / address / vehicle reg and insurance which is direct line)



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P.S. I have also spoken to the company that recovered my car and who currently keeps it.

They say in such circumstances they will hold the car there until an insurance assessor takes a look and makes a decision.

I told them Direct Line should be the ones wanting to take a look and they said they work with Direct Line a lot so they didn't see an issue at this stage, but warned me I would get a standard letter with regards to the recovery of the vehicle, which should in the end be dealt with by an insurance company.


I assume that will be the bill for the recovery.... 

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You won't be obliged to deal with an insurance company if you don't want to. The insurance companies are trying to draw you into their procedure – but that is their own industry arrangement and it has little to do with you and frankly as you are a private individual, you will be better off conducting your own correspondence because you will be better off able to control the situation and to dictate the pace of events. Your power to do this will be in your threat to carry out a legal action at some point. Once you do issue papers then everybody has to conform to court timescales. Because you aren't constrained by industry practice and insider polite-dealing, you will find yourself in a rather more powerful position in many ways.

As you have the address of the person behind you I would suggest that you get a valuation for your vehicle based on two or three advertisements that you find for cars of the same model, make, age and mileage et cetera and then write to the lady behind you – the third party – and put her on notice that you will be holding her liable for the damage to your vehicle. (Don't this point inform her that you will be looking to her for damage to the front of your vehicle as well. Just keep it they can say that you will be holding her liable for the damage to your vehicle.)


Tell her that you are getting assessments of the value of the vehicle as it appears to be written off and give her the address of the location of your vehicle and invite her to carry out an inspection but warn her that at some point it may become economically necessary to remove the vehicle but that if she wants the vehicle to stay in its present location on the basis that she needs further time to carry out an inspection then tell her that if she will write to you in those terms then you will try to organise this – but she will then be liable for any extra storage costs. You are saying this partly because it is true but also because by giving her this morning, you are focusing her attention on her own liability.


This will move her along. She will initially start trying to put pressure on her insurer – and no doubt they will write to you and require that you communicate with them. You should ignore this and keep on communicating with her. I know it sounds pretty rough handling – but she is the weak link in the chain. If you leave this down to insurers it could take a long time. If you keep the pressure up on her then you are likely to get results much more quickly. It's a nasty approach – but then you don't have the benefit of an insurer to look after your immediate interests.


What do you think is the replacement value of your vehicle? Do you think that the damage to the rear end was in itself sufficient to write off the car? Or do you think that it is a combination of the value of the damage at both ends?

Make sure you get good evidence about the cost of a replacement vehicle. Don't forget that they will try the stiff you. I wouldn't give them a hint that you are badly in need of a vehicle – even if you are. If they think that you can't afford a replacement and so you are depending upon them to cough up quickly, they will leverage that to make a smaller payout.



Of course you've been here since 2006 so you are thoroughly familiar with the advice in our customer services guide and you will be applying the advice when making any telephone calls – won't you?

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By the way, I think that the incident report is probably worth getting. I should write to the third party and let her know that you are going to ask for one and that you will be looking to her for the cost of this as part of the damages that you will be seeking in respect of the collision caused by her.

Don't forget that the insurance companies will probably all have a copy of the incident report – and of course the amount of money that it will cost them is no skin off their nose. You need to be similarly informed


I have just noticed that you say that you have already spoken to the vehicle recovery company. That is excellent because you have opened up a channel of communication and as you have recorded the call – having been here since 2006 – you have a good record of everything that was said. Bravo.

I would suggest that you follow it up in writing with them and confirm the details your conversation.

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The good thing is the recovery company is located 5 mins walk from the company i work for. We are on the same Industrial estate, so I can just nip over to take photos or talk to them in person. They are literally around the corner from my workplace. It only clicked when I saw their postcode which is the same as the company I work for. 

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I have already collected a few online valuations for my car, they range from £1293 (highest) and £1010 (lowest). I printed them all off.


I believe the rear end shunt would have been enough to write the car off to be honest. I didn't try to open the boot but going by the dent and the destroyed rear bumper I think the frame is bent at the rear as well. The front end damage put paid to it though. That car won't be on the road again. The driver door is pretty much jammed in a 1/4 open position (a policeman had to put some force onto it to open it any further than that to let me out) So I think the frame of the vehicle is bent. Rear and front.

The engine turned over much to everyone's surprise, but as soon as a police officer tried to drive it (to move it onto the hard shoulder) it stalled immediately again, he tried several times. In the end it had to be pushed.



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Okay. It probably won't matter but you never know it may be useful to apportion value to the front end and to the rear end damage. If there is an assessor, you might like to put this question.

Obviously you should go for the higher value. They will try to knock you down. It's not very much money so it shouldn't cause a huge amount of problem. Keep on looking around for valuations. If you can get if you valuations at say, £1500, then do your best to fight for this and for back to 1400 or 1300.

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I have found more values for the type of my car (2007 Silver edition) with roughly the same mileage on the internet.

Highest one is now £1695 and lowest the previous highest at £1293. I will keep these now. 


I also found a sample letter here on the motoring forum which I will tweak and use (template letter 7)




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  • 2 weeks later...

Have sent letter to lady who went into the back of me on the 19th of December

Two days later I received the bill from the car recovery company


£250 recovery fee and £20 per day storage fee

So far that's £200 just in storage plus £250 recovery = £450 going up by £20 per day now


I have not heard anything from anyone so far.


Not sure if I should now put an invoice together for my car (average value from the figures above) plus recovery & storage of the wreckage plus costs for the time I was without a car and send it to the lady who ran in the back of me, asking for payment within XX days and advising her that the storage costs are becoming uneconomical and I will make arrangements to dispose of the wreckage on the XX


I was going to call a local scrap yard and see how much they will charge to pick up the wreckage from the recovery yard and scrap it off for me and then add that to the bill


Is that going to be OK ?


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You are under a duty to mitigate your loss. This means that you can't keep your car in storage indefinitely and simply expect it to be paid for by another responsible party.

If you are certain that the car is a write-off then I suggest that you write a letter to the woman who went into the back of you, giving her the independent valuations that you have and any other evidence that the car is written off. Also send her the recovery bill and warn her of the accumulating storage fee.

You should tell her that as soon as she agrees that the car is written off and that it can be removed that you will then arrange for its disposal but until she gives that okay, the storage bill will keep on accumulating and she will be liable for it.

Tell that although you appreciate it is the festive season, you would recommend that she contacts her insurers urgently about this because in the first week of January if you have not heard a proposal for settling the matter, that you will be sending her a letter of claim and you will begin court proceedings before the end of January 2020.

Only say this if this is what you are prepared to do.

Tell her to organise an inspection of the vehicle and confirmation that it is a write off and that she agrees to its disposal. Warn her, however, that despite any insurance cover – she is personally responsible for your losses and it is up to her to recover those losses from her insurers but that you are not prepared to deal directly with her insurers or to accept any delay because of their procedures.

I would then suggest that about the six January, you send a letter of claim telling her that as you are unwilling to allow the storage fees to mount up any further, you are now making arrangements to dispose of the vehicle and that you will be suing her for the value of the vehicle £XXX plus storage fees incurred so far £XXX plus daily storage fee of £20 per day plus any disposal fee and that you will bring the action at the expiry of 14 days and without any further notice.

I suggest you send all correspondence by first class recorded delivery and by email if at all possible.

Keep us updated

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Thanks for that !! I will start writing.

Just got back from the recovery yard and took some photos of my car for my records and evidence, I also managed to get my belongings from the car.


It look a bit worse in daylight and the rear end damage will be enough to write it off. The boot won't open, the rear plastic bumper is broken, has partially come away from the car and the steel rear impact bar which sits underneath is bent in a V shape. There are some bits and bobs hanging from it, I don't know what they are or where they have come from.


The front damage is equally bad.


Interestingly I noticed the car that was sitting next to min in the yard is the one that hit me in the back. I took the liberty to take some photos of that as well, whilst I was there. Her windscreen is smashed / cracked, airbag was activated on driver's side and the complete front end is pushed inwards. It is a 64 plate and may well be a write off as well.





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These are some photos of my car, I cropped them a bit to obscure the number plate, the originals show a bit more but have the reg in full view, so I edited these a bit just for publishing purpose

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that strange when i had a crash that wasnt my fault and i was third party on my motorbike my policy took care of it of chasing them to pay out which did take a month to get it sorted


also you should of got your breakdown cover to tow your vehicle when you had a crash because i know i wouldnt want my vehicle in a impound with charges

Edited by harwoodshane2k
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Nah, they just had the car towed away as it wasn't road worthy anymore and made sure each party had the details of the car in front of them and behind of them.

Haven't heard from anyone so far, apart from an invoice from the recovery company.



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Have you thought about getting help with sorting this out for you, There are many companies



Edited by BankFodder
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You can handle almost all of these problems yourself without having to get claims management companies involved who will take a percentage of your winnings

The help we give here is completely free of charge – no strings


Also you should realise that these claims management companies won't cut to the chase. They want maximum money for minimum effort and they will waste time engaging with insurers and eventually settle for 50% or knock for knock or what have you. They do not act in your best interests.


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When I phoned Direct Line (the insurer of the lady who drove into the back of me) and they declined to talk to me they actually said I need to get some representation , like a claims management company. They could talk to such a company acting on my behalf but not to me personally.

Only goes to show they all work into each others pockets. 


It only evolves around the damage / loss of my vehicle and associated costs, so I am perfectly happy to do this myself.

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