What to Do After a Car Accident
The time immediately after a car accident can be stressful and chaotic if you’re unsure about the next steps. If you’ve already experienced a car accident, you remember those first few seconds of shock where you’re assessing if you’ve been hurt, your passengers are hurt, or other drivers are hurt. It’s important to have a plan committed to memory for what to do next. The following is a compilation of generic steps of what to do after a car accident. *
- Stay put.
Never leave the scene of an accident. Law enforcement will determine when you’re clear to leave. Leaving sooner can have serious consequences.
- Check for injuries.
Assess yourself and your passengers for injuries. Check on the other driver(s).
- Call 911.
Request medical assistance if needed, police, and fire rescue, if needed.
If you are in an area without access to 911, contact local law enforcement and advise them of your location, and the number of vehicles involved, and report any injuries. Speak slowly and clearly.
- Make sure you are safe.
If your vehicle can be moved, get it out of traffic without leaving the scene. Turn on your hazard lights and set up flares if you have them to warn other drivers.
- Call your insurance company.
Advise them of the accident, and the date and time of the accident. If you have an app for your car insurance, use it to streamline the process and ensure you get the claim information sent to you via email.
- Exchange information with all drivers involved.
In most incidents, law enforcement will collect all driver and insurance information on an incident report which will be provided to every driver before they leave the scene.
- Ask for a copy of the accident/incident report.
Law enforcement should provide you with a report, but it’s your responsibility to ensure you receive it.
- Take pictures and gather evidence.
If you aren’t seriously injured, snap some photos of your car and the vehicle(s) involved.
- Get names of witnesses.
If you notice passersby or drivers who may have stopped to assist, ask them if they witnessed the accident and ask them for their name and contact info if possible.
- Keep quiet.
Never apologize or admit fault to anyone. Don’t say “I’m fine.” The effects of a car accident may not surface for several days. Any statement to this effect will be used against you down the road. This means staying off social media; don’t post about the accident or any injuries you may have sustained. Don’t offer any information that isn’t asked of you, and remember you are not required to make a recorded statement.
- Seek legal counsel.
We live in a litigious society. Seek an attorney regardless of whether or not you think you will need one. It’s best to receive advice for your specific situation and be proactive.
Your insurance company will need as much information as possible to begin processing your claim. Be prepared to provide them with the accident/incident report number, date and time of the accident, and basic details about the accident. That’s all that’s required to start the claim process. Your insurance company will be able to provide you with an estimator to factor in the cost of repairs, and a list of approved repair centers if your car is deemed repairable.
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*Be aware that these steps may vary slightly based on vehicle laws in each state.