Step 1: Check for Injuries
After a car accident, things can get so hectic, so don’t be surprised if you are shaky, or you have a hard time thinking straight.
This is a common effect of the adrenaline dump, so first try to get your breathing under control and check yourself and passengers for injuries. Safety should be your number one priority when an accident happens, so before you do anything else, make sure that everyone involved is okay.
Check with each and every person involved in the accident starting with yourself and those in your car.
If someone is hurt, don’t hesitate to call 911 immediately. If somebody seems unresponsive, groggy, or you are unsure of their condition in any manner, call 911!
A lot of injuries can be internal, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Step 2: Relocate to a Safer Location if Possible
Next, if you and your passengers are okay, you should relocate those who are able to the side of the road or the sidewalk as soon as possible.
If the damage to your car is minor, and the accident is pretty straightforward, you can move the vehicle to the shoulder, as well.
But if there are any injuries, or if you suspect any injuries for any of the reasons listed above, do not attempt to move them.
If you have any questions about the safety of driving your car or the condition of someone involved in the wreck, leave them where they are, even if it blocks traffic.
Whether you decide to move your car or not, turn on your hazard lights, lay out orange cones, reflective triangles, or flares, whatever you can to increase the visibility of the wreck to other drivers.
The last thing you want is to cause another accident. In this case, a good emergency roadside kit comes in handy. It’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit and a first aid kit in your vehicle at all times.
Your accident emergency kit should at least include: a first aid kit, flashlight, flares (reflective triangles or orange cones), a camera other than your smart phone to take photos in case your phone was damaged or lost in the accident, as well as a pen and paper to take down information.
Step 3: Notify the Police
If someone is injured and you’ve called 911, you don’t need to call separately about the accident.
But even in the case of minor accidents, you should file a report with police.
Yes, there are some cases, like minor fender benders, where neither party will want to contact the police, but there are still some benefits to filing a report.
For instance, if you develop symptoms of an injury later on, it will be much easier to seek compensation through your insurance.
Additionally, police reports strengthen your case in insurance claims because they represent an unbiased third party.
Also, you might think your car is relatively undamaged when you inspect it on the spot, but later on if you discover something you missed in the heat of the moment, a police report makes it a lot easier to build an insurance claim.
When they arrive, you’ll need to provide: your driver’s license and evidence of insurance.
You’ll then need to fill out an accident report and provide information on the location and time of the accident, the other driver’s information, and an explanation of injuries and property damage.
Ask the police officer for a copy of the accident report.
A lot of times, it can take a day or two before it’s filed, and you can get a copy,
but the officer’s opinion on the accident can be useful if there’s a dispute. The report will also have the officer’s contact information as well.
Don’t ever leave the scene before the officer arrives. Leaving the scene before exchanging information and reporting it to law enforcement is considered a misdemeanor offense in some jurisdictions.
Step 4: Get the Other Driver’s Information
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, it’s imperative that you get the other driver’s insurance and personal information.
At minimum, make sure you write down these things: their name, address, phone number, email address, make and model of their car, license plate number, insurance carrier and insurance policy number.
If the driver of the vehicle isn’t the owner, make sure you note what their relationship is to the driver.
Also if there are witnesses, get their name and contact info. It’s great to have a way to contact uninvolved third parties just in case there’s a dispute down the road.
Lastly, be very careful about the information you hand out. It’s fine to give out all the info I’ve listed above, but never give out your social security number, and never sign a document unless it’s for the police or your insurance agent.
Step 5: Don’t Admit Fault
To protect yourself, it’s important you never admit the accident was your fault.
Even if the accident was your fault, and no matter how emotional you feel, admitting guilt or apologizing can make things a lot more difficult for you down the line.
When you talk to the other driver, keep it down to business. Only state facts and limit your discussion about the accident as much as possible. Let the police and insurance companies determine fault.
That’s what they are paid to do.
You might feel really bad at the moment, but you’ll feel even worse if you are dragged through a lengthy lawsuit.
Step 6: Take Photos and Write Notes for Your Insurance Claim
In the moment, you might think that there’s no way you’ll forget what just happened, but you don’t want to run the risk.
Take photos of the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle, the damage to their vehicle, any injuries that might have occurred, and the surrounding area.
Even take pictures of the other driver and passengers who were involved in the accident.
You can easily do all of this with your smartphone. When in doubt, take more pictures!
Step 7: Consider Going to the Doctor (or at Least Talk to One)
Even if you feel okay after the accident, you should take the risk of injury seriously.
You might feel fine, but there are a number of injuries commonly associated with car accidents that don’t show symptoms immediately.
High levels of adrenaline can easily hide the fact that you’re hurt, so be sure to keep an eye out for any pain or stiffness as time passes.
Whiplash is one of the most common of these injuries, and it can take up to 24 hours for you to develop noticeable symptoms.
Symptoms include, neck pain and stiffness, loss of range of motion in neck, headaches, tenderness in the shoulders and upper back, numbness in the arms, or fatigue and dizziness.
Don’t mess around with spine and/or head injuries! It’s always better to be more cautious than not!
Step 8: Contact Your Insurance Agent
They are there to help you through the process.
If they are good, they’ll know what the next steps are, and they can be a huge help throughout the claims process, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
They also should have referrals for professionals you might need in the near future.
Step 9: Be Patient
This one is key to maintaining your sanity! Sometimes claims take time, especially if there are disputes.
It takes time to investigate the wreck, get estimates and adjusters to calculate loss values. It takes time to get your vehicle fixed, to set up medical appointments, and for insurance companies to pay your bills.
No, you’re not going to have it settled in a few days; there might be times you’re waiting on an adjuster to call you or waiting for countless other things.
Getting overheated at the pace of the process doesn’t make it go faster; I can promise you!