Being in a car accident is a scary and often traumatic experience. Fortunately, knowing what to do in the event of an accident, before an accident ever occurs, can save you a lot of time and stress. Here is a step-by-step guide for what to do after a car accident.

Important Steps to Take After a Car Accident

two car head on collision

1. Check yourself and any passengers for injuries.

The first thing you should do after being in a car accident is check yourself and anyone else in your vehicle for injuries. If any of you have suffered car accident injuries, call 911 immediately or ask someone nearby to do so. In the event of a serious injury, wait for emergency personnel to arrive and try not to move.

2. Get to a safe place, if you are able.

If your car is still safe to drive after the accident, pull over to the side of the road to avoid posing a safety hazard to other drivers on the road. If the car is no longer drivable and you are not injured, get out and move yourself to a safe place. Also make sure to shut off your engine and turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers to slow down.

3. Check on the other people involved in the accident.

Once you've ensured your own safety and the safety of your passengers, get out of the car and check on anyone else who was involved in the accident. That includes the driver and passengers of the other vehicle, as well as any pedestrians nearby. Again, if anyone is injured, call emergency services right away.

4. Call the police.

In some states, you are legally required to call the police after any accident, from it's a big crash to a small fender bender. The responding officers will fill out a police report of the accident, which you may need when filing a claim with your insurance provider. You can also go to the nearest police station and fill out a report yourself.

5. Exchange information with the other driver.

If you were involved in an accident with another vehicle, you and the other driver should exchange contact and insurance information. This information should include:

  • Full name
  • Contact information (phone number, address, etc.)
  • Driver's license and license plate number
  • Insurance information
  • Make, model, and color of their vehicle
  • Location of the accident

6. Document the scene of the accident.

person photographing car damage after accident

If you can, try to gather as much information from the accident as possible. This may help speed up the claims process and protect you from liability. If the other party decides to sue you after the accident, it may also become valuable evidence for your case in court.

Some helpful information to collect includes:

  • Pictures of the accident (taken with your smartphone camera)
  • A copy of the police report
  • Names and contact information of all parties involved (drivers and passengers)
  • Names and badge numbers of the responding police officers
  • Names and contact information of eyewitnesses

7. Notify your insurance company and file a claim.

It's a good idea to notify your insurance company of the accident while you're still at the scene. That way, your insurance agent can walk you through the process and you can provide the most accurate information possible when filing your claim. Your insurance ID should list contact information for who you need to call to start the claims process. Some insurers also let you file a claim online or through a smartphone app.

What NOT to Do After a Car Accident

While it is very important to know what to do after an auto accident, it is just as important to know what not to do. If you're ever in a car accident, do not:

1. Panic

A car accident can be unnerving, but losing your cool will only make it worse. Try to keep a level head and follow the steps above to streamline the ensuing process.

2. Leave the Scene

Even if it isn't serious, you should never leave the scene of an accident without reporting it to law enforcement and exchanging information with the other driver. Failing to do so is illegal and can lead to criminal charges.

Of course, if the unfortunate event occurs where you are seriously injured and need emergency attention, don’t wait to call 911 and leave in the ambulance when it arrives.

3. Admit Fault

According to the Insurance Information Institute, neither party should admit fault for an accident. The adjuster reviewing your claim will determine liability based on the information provided from the scene of the accident. If you're worried about liability when you were not at fault, a car accident lawyer may be able to help you.

Be Prepared Before a Car Accident

While no one wants to be in an auto accident, they are often just that - accidents. That is likely the case whether you’re hit by a distracted driver, hit another vehicle that sudden slams on its brakes, or experience another type of accident. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to make sure you'll be prepared for an accident before it happens.

1. Emergency Kit

Keep an emergency kit in your car. This should include a first aid kit and a pen and paper to write down information at the scene of the accident. Some vehicle emergency kits also contain devices that can cut through a seat belt or smash a car window, in case you find yourself emerged in water. While these may only be necessary for extreme circumstances, they are a good addition to your center console or glove compartment.

2. Important Documents

Always drive with your important documents. Never go anywhere without your driver's license, vehicle registration, insurance information, and health plan information. Not only will this help in the event of an accident, but it always a good idea to have them.

3. Charge Your Phone

Make sure your phone is fully charged before you leave the house. If you get into an accident, your smartphone can help you document the scene of the accident and, depending on your insurance company, can even help you file a claim while you wait for an officer to arrive.

Overcoming a Car Accident

Hopefully you'll never need to follow this guide, but unfortunately, thousands of accidents happen every day in just the United States. If you ever find yourself involved in an accident, you will know exactly how to handle it from the very first moment. Remember, if you have been seriously injured, the other party had no insurance, or if you're being sued for the accident, an experienced car accident lawyer will be happy to help you. Stay safe on the road and always be alert!


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