You’re cruising down the road, almost at your destination, and all of a sudden, WHACK! After a few seconds of shock, you realize you’ve just been in a car accident. Then you spot the other car a few yards away.
Your first thought is, “Oh, #$@%*! Now what?” Then, you try to think back to everything you learned about handling car accidents and other difficult situations.
What should come next in the car crash aftermath is the reason we’ve written the following advice. We recommend printing a copy of this article and putting it in your glove compartment if you’re ever in a car crash.
What to Do After a Car Accident: Seven Steps
Here’s what to do after a car crash. This list is a compilation based on wisdom from insurance companies, attorneys, financial services, police, and entities with extensive experience dealing with car accidents and those involved in them.
1. Check Yourself and Any Passengers for Injury
If you or a passenger is injured and you’re able, call 911 for help immediately. If you’re too badly hurt to make the call, try to remain still and wait for help to arrive. If you or someone else can reach your car’s flashers, turn them on.
If one of your passengers is injured, keep them still and monitor their condition, keeping 911 on the line. Also, if you’re able to do so safely, check the status of those in the other vehicle.
2. Move Out of the Roadway If Possible
A vehicle malfunction might have caused the accident or one or more cars involved might be too damaged to safely more. If so, stay where you are. When the police arrive, they will divert traffic around the accident scene.
If you can move, though, pull into a safe place on the side of the road or in a nearby parking lot that you can reach.
3. Call 911 for Help and Wait for It to Arrive
Once you’re safe, call 911 to alert first the needed emergency responders about the accident (unless the police are on the scene and have already done so). Once you’ve called, remain in your car unless it’s safe to get out.
If doing so is appropriate and safe, you should approach the other driver(s) involved and determine if anyone in their vehicle(s) is injured and if you need to call 911 on their behalf. Please treat them with kindness, regardless of the stress everyone is feeling.
4. Exchange Information and Approach Any Witnesses
If you’re sure no one in the involved vehicles needs medical attention, initiate the process of collecting and exchanging information. It will be your best, and perhaps only chance to get this written down.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the following is the most critical information to collect at a car accident scene.
- All drivers’ full names and contact information
- Each driver’s insurance company and policy number
- Each driver’s license and license plate number
- The type, color, and model of each vehicle involved
- The accident’s location
Gathering this information will help the third parties concerned (police, insurance companies, etc.) reach all parties involved in the accident. It also might speed up all the paperwork so you can put all this behind you.
Please be aware that you should avoid anything but formalities and neutral chit-chat when discussing the car accident with the other drivers involved.
5. Document the Accident to Start a File
Whether or not you’re at fault in the accident, if you want to be treated as fairly as possible, you need to document the event in meticulous detail. Begin by placing the information you collected in the previous step into a folder —or the glove compartment temporarily.
The following paragraphs describe the evidence you should collect:
Police Officers’ Information
Information you collect about the police officers at the scene should include the names and badge numbers. And don’t hesitate to ask them any questions about the accident and what you should do to follow up.
Copy of the Accident Report
You should ask to receive a copy of the accident report as soon as it’s available. Usually, this will arrive in the mail a few days after the accident. Your car insurance carrier might also request a copy of this report when you file your claim.
Lots of Photos of the Accident Scene
Taking pictures at the accident scene is a must. Capture every possible angle of the damaged vehicles to show all the damage as clearly as possible.
Also, consider a shot of the other car’s license plate — to be sure you have it, and you didn’t transcribe it earlier. You might have the chance to add photos to the insurer’s claim file as support for your claim.
Write Down Witness’s Names and Contact Information
Make a note of the names and addresses of all parties involved in the car accident. This information includes passers-by, people outside their homes at the time, and passengers in the other vehicles.
These people can help clarify events you and the others involved in the accident might have missed due to the event’s sudden shock.
6. Notify Your Insurer
If possible, try to do this step while you’re still at the scene of the car accident. That way, your insurance representative can suggest any evidence they might need that is available only where and when it occurred.
If it needs to wait until things have settled and you’re at home, you still should call as soon as possible. Among other things, you’ll want to get the work on your vehicle started, so you can have it back or look for a replacement if needed.
7. Find a Lawyer
Finally, you may want to file a lawsuit for any injuries you might have suffered and seek a higher car damage payment than your insurance company has offered than insurance or another matter related to the car crash.
If you need to find a lawyer, you will find many personal injury or property damage attorneys willing to take your case.
The Car Crash Aftermath
Car crashes range from simple “fender benders” to ones that cause devastating damage, often with serious injuries or fatalities. We hope everyone involved in yours was able to walk away unharmed.
If you learned anything from reading this article, it should be understanding the need to prepare for a car accident mentally, strategically, and logistically. Having a list like this one is a good start.
But it would help if you occasionally did a mental rehearsal of how you would act on the scene of a car crash. That way, you might be able to move through the steps with a level head and help keep the scene from becoming chaotic.
Have we shared some useful information here? If so, keep reading the thought-provoking articles on our website.