You do everything you can to be a safe driver. You don’t drive distracted, and you always drive with care — whether you’re on the way to work or going to the grocery store. But sometimes, life happens. And now you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident, and you’re not sure what to do next.
Start by taking a deep breath. It will be alright. Here’s what you need to do immediately following a car accident:
Before you do anything else, safety is your foremost concern.
If it’s safe to do so and you’re not seriously injured, move your car to a safe area. Don’t leave the area altogether–you always need to stop if you’re involved in an accident, no matter how minor. The best option is the shoulder of the road.
If it’s not possible to move your car, either because you’re too injured to move or because the car is too damaged to safely move, put on your hazard lights to tell other cars you’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
Put up cones, flares, or warning triangles around the accident scene if you have them. This is for two reasons: to keep everyone safe, and to preserve the scene as much as possible.
Check on Everyone Involved
If you can get out of your car, check to make sure it’s safe to open your car door before you get out. Put your car in park (or set the hand brake if you drive a manual transmission) and turn off your car engine. You’re not going anywhere soon.
If it’s safe to do so, check on other people involved in the accident, including drivers, passengers, and nearby pedestrians. Check to see if anyone needs emergency medical care, and call 911.
Remember, even a minor symptom like dizziness could be a sign of a concussion or traumatic brain injury and should be checked by a medical professional.
Help out anyone caught in the accident if it’s safe to do so. Don’t try to move someone who can’t be safely moved–leave that to medical professionals.
You should also check with nearby pedestrians. Make sure no one got hurt and ask them to stick around to give statements about the accident.
Contact the Police
If you haven’t yet, it’s time to contact the police.
Even if the auto accident is minor, you should contact the police anyway. It’s more of an annoyance at the moment, but a police report can be invaluable in the claims process for determining who was at fault.
When the police arrive, make sure you tell the investigating officers what happened to the best of your ability. Don’t speculate or guess — it’s better to tell the officer that you aren’t sure than to misstate the facts. For example, if you’re asked whether you’re injured and you’re not sure, say so.
Here’s how to file a police report.
Limit Your Conversation About the Auto Accident
Before the police arrive, when you’re checking with the other driver and with pedestrians, limit your conversation about the accident as much as you can.
You want to be helpful, but be careful not to admit fault or liability. Don’t discuss the auto accident at length unless you’re speaking with your attorney, the investigating officers, or a representative from your insurance company.
Gather Information and Document the Scene
In the time before the police arrive, you should also be sure to gather information.
Typically, the police will collect this information at the scene, but having it for yourself will help you with your insurance claim later. You’re going to need the following:
- The names of the drivers and passengers involved
- The make, model, year, color, and VIN of cars involved
- The name of the other party’s insurance company, including the policy number and the agent’s name
- The names and contact information of any eyewitnesses
- The location and address of the scene of the auto accident
- The police officer’s name and badge number
DO NOT allow your license and registration to be photographed, and only ask for contact information if the other party refuses to provide insurance information. This is an identity protection issue, and the license plate and registration doesn’t help an insurance company find the policyholder.
You should also try to document the scene as much as safely possible.
Seek Medical Help Immediately
If you didn’t receive emergency medical care on the scene, you should seek medical help as soon as you’re finished giving your statement to the police.
This is for two reasons:
- First, injuries resulting from an auto accident are not always readily apparent. Unless you are completely certain that you were not injured in an accident, seek medical care in your local emergency room to be safe.
- Second, waiting a while to seek medical care looks bad when you file an insurance claim. If you were actually injured, the other party may argue that you’re trying to play up a minor injury.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance
Finally, make sure to report the auto accident to your insurance company.
You should notify your insurance company as soon as possible — doing so at the scene of the accident is usually a good idea, as many policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation.
If you’re not sure who to call, check your insurance ID card for your insurer’s contact information.
Were You Involved in an Auto Accident?
If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, it’s vital that you get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible. Once the immediate aftermath of an accident is over, an auto accident attorney is the person you need to guide you through the claims process.
If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, contact the experienced auto accident attorneys at the Steigmann Law team. We will answer your questions and guide you through the process.