Getting into a car accident is stressful enough. It can be an emotional and traumatic experience for those involved, so it’s important to stay as calm as possible and follow proper protocol. Not knowing the right steps to take right after a crash can take your stress level up another notch.
You can avoid that by knowing exactly what to do right after an accident: abide by the law, file an insurance claim at the right time, and, most importantly, get everyone involved to safety.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Here are step-by-step instructions you should follow if you ever get into an auto accident.
1. Stop your car.
This may seem obvious, but hit-and-runs are no joke and happen more often than they should. Regardless of how small or large the accident is, pull over.
2. Move to safety.
Make sure your vehicle is safely off the road and away from traffic, if possible. If your car is no longer operational, make sure you and anyone else involved move away from oncoming traffic so no one is at risk of being hit. If there’s any chance that your vehicle may catch fire, move everyone a safe distance away from it.
Set out cones around your car if you have them to make it easier for approaching traffic to spot. Turn on your hazard lights, and turn off your car’s engine.
Take extra care if someone hits you due to road rage. If this happens, stay in your vehicle and call the police immediately. Make sure you’re in a public location so you have witnesses. Don’t engage in a fight or argument.
3. Check for injuries.
If you or someone else is injured, call 911 immediately for help. If someone is seriously hurt, try not to move them at all unless they are in harm’s way.
4. Call the police and wait for help.
Even if no one is hurt, you should still call the police to file a report of the accident—regardless of how minor the damage is. Later, when you file a claim with your insurance company, you’ll have the legal document to show them. If you find yourself in a lawsuit for some reason, you can prove you followed the right procedure.
Try not to accept responsibility (admit fault) for the accident in the police report or when you speak with an officer.
5. Exchange information with the other party.
While it’s crucial to exchange basic information with the other party involved in the accident, don’t overshare. You should collect the following details and try to avoid further engagement:
- Names and phone numbers of everyone involved (including witnesses)
- Insurance information (company and policy number)
- License plate number
- Make/model/color of the car
- VIN (vehicle identification number)
6. Don’t admit fault.
Don’t discuss the accident in detail with the other party or admit fault (even if the accident was your fault). It’s not your job to determine fault; that’s for your insurance company and the police to decide. When you sign a contract with your insurance company, you agree NOT to assume responsibility for certain events. Your insurer will, however, take any information you share with them and your documentation into consideration.
7. Check for damage and document the accident.
After you know everyone is safe, check your vehicle for damage. Take photos with your cell phone and consider jotting down or voice recording detailed descriptions of how the accident occurred. Include the location, time, and weather conditions in your notes.
8. Call your insurance agent.
Call your insurance company to start the claims process as soon as possible. It’s best to call when the details of the event are fresh in your mind. Your agent will walk you through how to file an auto claim correctly, which can often be done over the phone, online, or on a phone app.
Prepare for an Accident Before It Happens
Here are some tips to help you get through all the steps listed above as efficiently as possible.
- Stop by your DMV or a police station to pick up a car accident form, just in case.
- Leave your registration, auto insurance info, and medical info inside your vehicle or wallet so you have it at all times.
- Make a list of all the essential information you need to collect after an accident. Stick it in your phone or print it out so you have it handy.
- Make sure your insurance company’s number is easily accessible.
- Keep emergency equipment, like orange cones and a first aid kit, in your vehicle.
- Make sure you have adequate auto insurance coverage.
If you’re not sure if you have adequate coverage or have been in an accident and your premium has increased, it may be time to shop around for a better option. Request a quote, and we’ll reach out to you soon!