What to do Immediately After an Auto Accident
An auto accident is stressful. It happens so quickly and unexpectedly that it’s hard to accurately process what happened until a few minutes afterward. Most people don’t ever expect to have an accident so they don’t know what to do if they should be in one. By following a few simple steps, you will be able to process the accident and get the information you need so that you can begin the repair process for both you and your car.
If possible, pull to the side of the road – If you are able to move your car to the side of the road, do so in order to not block traffic. Before moving the cars, get the other driver’s tag numbers in case they decide to leave the scene.
If there are injuries, call for an ambulance – Injuries need to be taken care of first. Someone who is not injured should either call 911 or the local police or fire department for an ambulance. An uninjured person can perform first aid if it is needed. Do not try to free someone who is trapped in a car! Stay with them and keep them calm until the ambulance arrives.
Call the police to file a report – Either driver can call the local police department to report the accident and ask for an officer to come and take a report. Do not over-explain the situation to the dispatcher. You will be making your statement to the police officer when s/he arrives.
Survey the damage – While the police are on the way, survey the damage to your car. If possible, you should take photos of the damage while it is still fresh. Be sure that you include photos of the whole car in addition to close-ups of the damaged parts. If you sustained any minor injuries, you should photograph those as well if possible.
Exchange insurance information with the other driver – If you feel you can exchange information with the other driver safely and calmly, you may do so before the police arrive. If you do not feel safe, you may wait until the police arrive. When you are exchanging information, you will need to get the other driver’s name, insurance company, and a phone number for that company. The other driver will need your information as well.
DO NOT try to establish or admit to blame – You may think you are at fault when really, after investigation, it is found to be the fault of the other driver. If you give a written statement that you are to blame, that is the version of the events that will be recorded. After making sure the other driver doesn’t need first aid, return to your car and wait for the police to arrive. You shouldn’t talk with the other driver about the accident.
When the police arrive, make your statement away from the other driver – The police officer should get both sides of the story, one driver at a time. You may be asked to make your statement at her/his cruiser or near your vehicle. You should never make your statement in front of the other driver. Each person will have their turn to speak. Once the officer takes the report, s/he will try to establish blame and fill out the citation accordingly. If you feel that the officer is wrong, you may contact the police to have an investigation of the accident performed. Do not argue with the officer at the accident site!
Make arrangements to have your car towed – If your car is not in drivable condition, you should call to arrange a tow truck to take your car to the dealership or collision repair shop. Do not have them begin repairs until you talk to your insurance company. You should keep any receipts from the towing company or the repair shop for expenses you have incurred before the insurance company tells you what you need to do to proceed.
You need to be seen by your doctor no more than three days after the accident. Soft tissue injuries can take a day or two to show symptoms. If you are having neck pain or shortness of breath, you need to go to the emergency room immediately. The afternoon or evening of the accident, you need to call your insurance company and alert them of the accident and the details. They will instruct you what your next step is and how to go about getting your car fixed. You should keep all your receipts, statements, and information together should you need them later. It is at this time that you may want to contact an accident attorney, particularly if the other driver was impaired or didn’t have insurance.
An accident can cause a lot of stress for everyone involved. However, if you are calm and focused at the scene, you will have a much easier time getting you and your car back on the road in top condition.
Frank Roberts writes for Auto Accident Attorney Info, a site specializing in consumer information on auto accidents and injuries including traumatic brain injuries