1. Safety first
Safety is the number one priority after a car crash. Check whether anyone has been hurt. In case of any injuries, call for medical assistance. Remember to protect children, the elderly, and pets. Don’t leave them unattended or in a hot car after an accident.
If the collision is a minor one and there are no injuries, make a note of it so that the other party doesn’t claim an injury later on.
2. Alert the authorities
In some states, you may be legally required to call the police after an accident. Call 911 and give them the exact location of the accident. Remember to stay on the line with the dispatcher until you are told to hang up.
The police will fill out an accident report. Be sure to alert the police if the other driver flees the scene, if the other driver may be drunk or under the influence of drugs, or if you think the other driver may have deliberately caused the accident.
If the police can’t come to the scene, go to the closest police station and file an accident report yourself. You’ll need a copy of the police report to file an insurance claim. In most states, you have up to 72 hours to file a police report.
3. Stick around
Do not leave the scene of the accident. Instead, pull over your car to a safe, public area near the accident as soon as you can. Turn on your hazard lights and use road flares to alert other drivers on the road. If you can’t move your car, get yourself and your passengers away from the collision by moving onto a sidewalk or another safe place.
4. Exchange details
Legally, all parties involved in the accident must share their details if the accident caused any damage or injury. Be sure to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. Find out whether the other driver is registered as the other car’s owner. If not, get the owner’s contact information.
What information should you exchange after a car accident?
- Name and contact information
- Insurance company and policy number
- Vehicle model and type
- Driver’s license and license plate number
- Location of the accident
Were there any other witnesses to the accident? Ask them to give you their names and phone numbers so you can get in touch with them later if necessary.
5. Talking to the other driver
Use caution when you speak with the other driver. For one, they may be enraged, which could endanger your safety. Secure or conceal your valuables before you exit your vehicle. The accident may have been staged to steal your belongings.
Stick to the facts when exchanging details. Don’t assign blame for the crash and try to avoid an angry scene. Avoid discussing whose fault the accident was. The insurance adjuster will examine your vehicles to determine who is at fault in the accident, along with information from both sides, eyewitnesses, photographs, and the police report.
6. Document the scene of the accident
Record as much information as you can about the accident. Take voice notes using your cell phone and send them to yourself. Use your phone’s camera to take pictures and video recordings.
Wondering what details to document at the scene of the accident?
- The make, model, color, and license plate number of the vehicles involved in the crash
- Road conditions such as the weather, street signs, and lighting at the time of the accident
- The exact time and date of the accident
- Any damage to the cars, including parked cars, or damage to surrounding property
7. Make an insurance claim
As soon as you can, contact your insurance company. While you may be tempted to negotiate a deal without going through your insurance, we don’t recommend it. Notifying your insurance company protects you from damages later on.
People sometimes get nervous about getting their car insurance involved, but your insurance company can help you learn your options. You may have a liability waiver, so you won’t need to pay a deductible if it is deemed you weren’t at fault. Or you may have coverage even if the other party doesn’t have sufficient insurance to cover your damages.
When speaking with your insurance company, give them your policy number and the car registration number of any cars involved in the accident. Your insurance company will also ask for the other driver’s name, address, phone number, and insurance information.
8. See a doctor
Sometimes, your injuries from a car accident are not immediately noticeable. You may feel fine at the time of the crash but have pain or injuries a day or two later. Be sure to see a doctor to rule out any injuries after a car accident. Impact to your head, spinal cord, or internal organs may not always be apparent but could cause long-term damage if left untreated.
9. Get your car repaired
If your car was seriously damaged in the accident, you’ll need a tow truck to get it to a repair center. Your roadside assistance plan may cover this service. Be sure to take down contact information for the towing company and driver.
Keep your car safe on the road by having it repaired by a reputable car mechanic. Car accidents can do serious damage to your vehicle, and if you skimp on repairs, things may never really be the same. Worried about the cost of getting your car fixed? Get an extended warranty on your vehicle, and you can rest assured that the repairs you need will be easier to handle.
10. Be prepared
Make sure to file away records of all documents related to the accident, including the claim number, contact information for all involved parties, and receipts for car rentals and repairs.
Hopefully, you won’t be involved in another car accident. Just the same, designate a spot for your registration, proof of insurance, contact information, and a checklist about what to do in case of an accident.
Technology solutions may help you regain a sense of safety on the road and may lower your insurance premiums. Adaptive cruise control reduces your car’s speed if it detects that traffic ahead is moving more slowly than you are. Dashboard cameras can record the traffic ahead or behind you, serving as evidence should you have to file a claim. Autonomous emergency braking systems automatically slow or stop your vehicle to prevent a crash or decrease its impact.
Car accidents can be unavoidable, but knowing what to do if you’re in one helps you regain control of the situation. Keep these tips in mind should you ever find yourself involved in a car accident, and remember to drive safely.