Thousands of motor vehicle accidents happen every day across the United States. Car accidents can be a stressful and traumatic event, and it’s important to be prepared. If you’re ever in a car crash, be sure to follow these important steps:
What to Do After a Car Accident:
- Pull over – Stop at the scene
- Check for injuries – Start with yourself
- Call 911 for police and ambulance if needed
- Be polite, but do not admit fault
- Exchange information with the other drivers, passengers, and witnesses
- Take pictures
- Note important factors
- Call a tow truck
- Seek medical care for possible delayed pain and injuries
- Contact your insurance company
- Obtain the police report and verify state reporting
- Contact an attorney
An auto accident can be a traumatic event. It is best to prepare ahead of time, so you know what steps to follow. These steps can help you know what to do after a car accident or provide guidance if one has just occurred. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the United States, there were over seven million police-reported crashes in 2016, which calculates to an average of 19,000 crashes every day across the U.S.
Pull over – Stop at the scene
The first thing you must do is stop your vehicle safely if you are not already stopped. Depending on the circumstances it might be a good idea to pull over to the side of the road. Do not leave the scene of the accident as this can be considered a hit-and-run crime. If you are obstructing traffic with your vehicle or are in an unsafe area, you should move it off to the side, or to a safer location nearby, where you can await responders. If the area is safe, don’t move your car until the police arrive and inspect the accident scene.
Check for injuries – Start with yourself
Once you’ve stopped, the next thing you need to do is check yourself for injuries. Depending on the severity of the car accident, you may have a personal injury that is not obvious. It is also possible the pain won’t set in right away. Your adrenaline might be rushing– you may be injured and not realize it yet. Injuries vary depending on the speed and angle of impact, whether a seat belt was worn, and many other factors. It is possible that there is damage to the neck, broken bones, or internal damage. Take a moment to think about how you really feel, does everything move the way it should?
Once you have checked yourself for injuries, you should check on your passengers. Be aware of your surroundings and assess the situation before exiting your vehicle. If it’s safe to exit your vehicle, check on the other driver and passengers or bystanders. Ensure they are not injured and in need of life-saving care. If anyone looks hurt or may be seriously injured, seek medical attention by calling 911 or appointing someone to call 911. Do not move anyone with a suspected neck or back injury unless absolutely necessary, as this may cause further damage.
Call 911 for police and ambulance if needed
If you haven’t already, call 911 and follow their instructions. Even if there are no physical injuries, you may need the police to respond in order to direct traffic, help clear the road, and write an accident report on the accident. Not all accidents will require a police officer to arrive, but you can still ask for a report to be filed in some states. In fact, many states require reporting an accident within a limited amount of time. Sometimes, this is done by the insurance or the police along with their reports.
When the police or emergency responders arrive, follow their orders and do your best to note what the responders do and what kind of care was necessary on the scene. If the police are involved, do they take action against a driver, issue a sobriety test, or arrest anyone? Make a note of what takes place and try to record the names and badge numbers of the responders for use in your claim. Depending on the severity of the crash, these details may play a vital role in proving fault or other liability issues.
Be polite, but do not admit fault
Automotive accidents are hectic and stressful events. It is easy to get upset, especially when there are damages or injuries. Despite the urge to let your emotions run free, it is best to maintain a calm and polite composure. Stay polite and first try to ensure everyone is ok. Do not apologize, even if you think it was your fault. Do not take out your frustration on the other driver. Arguing about fault is not productive. There are legal tools to compensate you for damages and injuries depending on the situation. The best thing you can do is contact an injury attorney.
Exchange information with other drivers, passengers, and witnesses
Be sure to get the name of every driver involved in the accident, along with the driver’s insurance company and policy number. You will also want to collect information on the vehicles involved such as the make, model, year, color, license plate number, and even the VINs. You are not required to give out your address to the other driver or let anyone photograph your driver’s license or registration.
These details will be required to file an insurance claim. When you initiate an auto claim through your own insurance, they will need to know which car insurance company the other driver has in order to resolve the collision claim. Even if the damage seems minor, or if you do not feel injured, collect the basic information in case injuries present themselves later. Whiplash is a common occurrence with rear-end collisions and fender benders. Don’t wait till the pain sets in to realize you should have retrieved the other driver’s insurance information.
Once you’ve exchanged information with the other party or driver, you will want to record what happened from your perspective in order to file your claims. The best way to do this is to take pictures of the accident and damages to each vehicle. Most people have smartphones with cameras that can take high-resolution pictures. Start with the damages to your car and then photograph the other cars or property involved. Also, take pictures of the location where the crash occurred and what contributed to the accident, such as road hazards, lane changes, street signs, etc.
Note important factors
There are some details that you can collect at the accident that will help process your claim. Make sure to record as much relevant information as you can about the automotive collision. This can include the date and time, weather conditions, the names and badge numbers of first responders along with what actions they took. These smaller details may not be easy to remember later, so it’s important to write everything down as soon as you can.
Call a tow truck
Sometimes in a car accident, your car may end up too damaged to drive. If you can, arrange for a tow truck through your insurance company. They can help choose a tow company that is covered and can tow your vehicle to an authorized automotive service center. Make sure to ask for the tow truck driver’s name, towing company, and location where the car will be towed.
Seek medical care for possible delayed pain and injuries
Sometimes pain from crash injuries might not set in right away. It can take days or weeks to discover some issues resulting from an accident. It’s wise to visit your doctor for a checkup even if you feel fine. When you seek medical care for issues that may be related to the accident, keep track of your medical bills and health care provider records. Depending on the situation, the costs of your medical care may be covered by the applicable auto insurance. If you are unsure about your options, reach out to your insurance representative or to an attorney.
Contact your insurance company
If you haven’t contacted your insurance already, make sure to do that as soon as possible. Most major carriers offer a mobile or online portal for filing auto accident claims. These apps can contain the forms and steps required to file a claim. Some also allow you to take and upload pictures directly from the app. You might even start the claim directly at the scene of the car crash. Once you have filed a claim with your insurance company, do not allow it to be closed until you are sure there are no additional medical issues.
If the other driver, or their insurance company, try to get you to sign any documents or talk about the accident, kindly refer them to your insurance agent or lawyer. If you are feeling pressured by an insurance company, even your own, ensure that your rights are not violated by contacting a car accident attorney.
Obtain the police report and verify state reporting
If law enforcement responded to the car accident, you can obtain a copy of the police report to help with your insurance claim. In some cases, you can request a copy from the responding police’s website or office. Your insurance company may want you to send or upload a copy for their records as well.
In some cases, such as minor accidents or fender benders, the police may not respond. In these situations, you may still be able to apply for a police report online. It is important to gather as many official records as possible.
Many states mandate that car accidents be reported within a limited time frame. In some cases, the police or insurance will report the accident to the state on your behalf. Double check with both to see if this step has already been done since a failure to report can result in fines.
Contact an attorney
If you feel like you need an attorney to fight for your rights, look no further than the Acadia Law Group. A car accident lawyer will help protect your legal rights and ensure you receive proper compensation from the other driver’s insurance company. It also may be necessary to consider suing uninsured drivers for damages not covered by insurance or to recover deductibles. An attorney can help you settle legal issues involving healthcare providers and insurance companies, and make sure you are treated fairly. Reach out to Acadia Law Group today for a free consultation.
Car accidents can be a scary and upsetting experience. When they occur, it can be hard to know what to do next. Follow the steps outlined above to make sure you are protected when filing a claim or seeking medical care. First, stop and make sure you are relatively safe. Then check for injuries, starting with yourself, then your passengers and others. Call 911 if emergency responders are needed. Be polite as you talk to the others involved. Do not admit fault or apologize, but exchange information with the other driver or property owner. Use your insurance app, smartphone, or camera to take pictures of damages and contributing factors. Make sure to note everything that seems relevant.
After injuries have been assessed and the first responders are finished, you will have to move your car or possibly call a tow truck. If pain sets in later, seek professional care and keep records of all medical expenses. Next, start or complete a claim with your insurance company. You may also retrieve the police report if one was filed. Make sure that the necessary state reporting has taken place.
Dealing with a vehicle accident can be overwhelming, but there is help available. Contact Acadia Law Group for assistance with the legal, medical or insurance issues surrounding your car accident. Our experts are ready to assist you.