According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 6 million car accidents occur in the United States every year. Most of them involve only property damage, but one in three accidents involves personal injury either to the driver or passengers. Out of that number, two out of every ten accidents lead to fatal injuries.
If you should find yourself involved in a road traffic accident, it will likely leave you feeling pretty shaken up. You’ll probably struggle to think clearly, which is why it’s important to get things clear in your mind a bit ahead of time.
If you’re wondering what to do if you get in a car accident, this post is for you.
What to do if You Are in a Car Accident – A Step-by-Step Guide
Knowing what to do if you’re in a car accident means helping make sure everyone is safe, following the law, and getting the insurance claim process started.
Step 1 – Stop
Wondering what to do when you get in a car accident? The first thing you must do is stop. Never drive away from the scene of an accident, even if it’s a minor one.
Step 2 – Protect the Scene
Protecting the scene means taking steps to prevent further accidents from happening. This might include setting up flares and keeping your flashers on.
If your lights have been damaged in the accident and it’s dark when it happens, use a flashlight to keep yourself safe. You need to be seen by anyone approaching the accident site. Wait in your disabled car or by the side of the road.
Step 3 – Call the Police
It’s always a good idea to call the police, even if there are no serious injuries. If you want to file a claim with your insurance company, you’ll likely need a police report.
All the vehicles involved in the accident should stay where they are unless they are causing a hazard for other traffic passing by.
Step 4 – Make an Accurate Record
When the police arrive, make sure you tell them exactly what happened, as far as you can remember. If there are facts you’re unsure of, make sure the police know.
Don’t be tempted to guess, speculate, or fill in any gaps with facts you’re unsure of. It’s better to say you’re not sure about something rather than misstate any facts.
It might be several hours after the accident before you feel any pain. You might also be unaware of any injuries until the next day.
As well as making sure the information you give is accurate, you should also make sure other people’s statements are accurate too.
Step 5 – Take Pictures
If you’ve got a camera in your car take pictures of the vehicles and any damage you can see. A cell phone camera will work just as well. Also, photograph any visible injuries if you can.
It might not be possible to take pictures straight after the accident but try to take them as soon as possible.
Step 6 – Exchange Information
The attending police officers will take information from everyone at the scene. However, if there is no responding police officer, you should collect the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of everyone involved in the accident, including drivers, passengers, and any witnesses. Also, ask the other party for their insurance information and ask to see their insurance card.
If the police attend the scene of the accident, the investigating officer will provide all drivers with a police report number. If you want to obtain a police report at a later date, you’ll need this number. Should the accident take place on a state highway, you can get a report from the state police.
Step 7 – Report the Accident
You must notify your insurance provider as soon as possible. Typically, insurance policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation.
When you speak with your insurance provider, ask if you’ve got medical benefits as part of the coverage. Usually, you pay extra for such coverage, so it makes sense to use it when you can.
If you have Medpay coverage, you must submit your accident-related medical bills to your insurance company. The primary function of Medpay coverage is for accident-related medical bills.
Step 8 – Seek Medical Attention
Any injuries you sustain might not be immediately apparent. Most commonly, you’ll be feeling pain for a day or two.
You should always seek medical attention following an accident unless you’re absolutely certain you’re not injured. Either visit your local emergency room or your family physician.
Even if the accident was a minor impact, you could still seriously injure your spinal cord. If you were dazed or lost consciousness for a short period, you might have suffered a closed head injury or concussion. If such injuries are left untreated, they could cause behavioral and cognitive problems.
Step 9 – Keep a File
There is going to be a fair amount of accident-related paperwork and information. It’s important to keep it all together in one place. Make sure you have a record of your police report number, a claim number, the claim’s adjuster who is handling your claim, contact names and numbers for everyone involved, receipts for a rental car if you need one, and any other expenses you incur.
Step 10 – Protect Your Rights
Wondering what to do when in a car accident? One of the most important is to consult your attorney. Your attorney will ensure your rights are protected and no valuable evidence is destroyed.
Quite often, you may be asked by your insurance company to give a statement immediately after an accident. It’s advisable to seek legal advice before you make this kind of statement.
What to do if in a Car Accident – Quick Tips
- If you’ve been involved in a fender bender or minor collision, don’t leave young children, disabled adults, non-ambulatory elders, or pets in a hot, locked car.
- If your children were traveling in car seats when the accident happened, don’t remove them from their car seats as they may have injuries you can’t see.
- When you call 911, get someone nearby to give you the correct location of the accident.
- Refrain from making any admissions or blurting out you’re sorry to the other driver, even if you feel you’re at fault.
- Resist discussing any potential injuries.
- Don’t make any side deals with other drivers to pay or accept cash for the accident rather than filing an insurance claim.
- Tips for capturing the accident scene include:
- Take pictures from multiple angles
- Give the picture a sense of scale
- Take pictures from more than one distance
- Take pictures of the surrounding area
- Take pictures of any damage inside your car
- Take pictures of any other items that will help tell the story
- Other things you might want to photograph include:
- License plates
- Police report
- Insurance documents
What to do in a minor car accident with no damage?
After a car accident, you should file a police report even if there is no damage.
What to do if someone sues you for a car accident in California?
If you’re being sued for a car accident in California, there are some things you should do:
Reach out to an auto car accident attorney
Reach out to your insurance company
Strike an agreement with the other party to settle the case before trial
You can accept the trial and try to win
You can sue if you believe the other party is at fault
You can agree with the other party to dismiss the case and pay the settlements
Can I get insurance after an accident?
You can purchase insurance and switch insurance companies whenever you want. However, buying insurance just after an accident to cover repair costs is not permitted.
If I was in a car accident, would my insurance rates increase?
Not all car accidents make your rates increase. If the accident was the fault of the other driver, you shouldn’t see an increase in your rates at renewal time.