Car accidents can be upsetting and stressful events, but knowing what to do afterward can help ease your mind. When dealing with the immediate shock of a collision, you may have some difficulty deciding what to do next. Should you call the police or your insurance company right away? Should you stay in your car, or walk over to the shoulder of the road?
Before moving forward, we should discuss some things you can do to avoid a car accident in the first place. Some of the top causes of car accidents in the U.S. are impaired driving (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), speeding, and distracted driving (looking at phone, navigation system, or chatting with other passengers).
Have you or someone you know been injured in an accident? Reach out to us at any time at 844-966-0965 for a free consultation.
According to the Office of Traffic Safety in California, 50% of all traffic fatalities in 2019 showed that the drivers involved tested positive for either drugs or alcohol in their system.
Stay alert and vigilant and don’t drive under the influence!
We’re going to guide you through 10 things you should do immediately after a car accident so you can be prepared if this ever happens to you.
What to do immediately after a car accident
1) Stop right away, stay where you are, move only when it’s safe to do so
If your vehicle is still running, you should stop immediately and check your surroundings to make sure you’re safe. Move only when it’s necessary and safe to do so. Watch for oncoming traffic if you are attempting to move your vehicle over to a curb or shoulder. You don’t want to get hit again or cause another accident by blocking the path of others.
If your car is disabled and you can’t safely get across to a sidewalk or shoulder, remain in your vehicle. Wait until the police or emergency response arrives. On a quiet street, you may be able to get out of your car safely and onto the sidewalk. But on a busy highway at night, it is very dangerous for you to stand outside your vehicle, or to try and cross the highway. Stay where you are and stay safe inside your vehicle.
Here at Accident News Now we report on far too many accidents where drivers and passengers are killed on the road because drivers stepped out of their vehicles following a crash.
2) Call 911 to report the car accident, and ask for an ambulance if there are any injuries
Once you’ve determined you are safe, call 911 right away. The police must conduct an investigation if necessary and make a report on the accident. If anyone is injured, request an ambulance to treat injuries at the scene, or transport those who are hurt to a hospital.
Insurance companies often rely on police reports to make decisions about accidents, so it’s critical that you contact them immediately for anything more serious than a small fender bender. You should also contact them in a small accident, just in case.
3) Obtain the other driver’s information
After ensuring yours and everyone else’s safety, and you’ve called authorities or emergency response, exchange information with the other driver(s). You’ll need their full name and address, phone number, insurance information, license plate number, vehicle make and model, and their registration information. Take photos of documents, ID cards and any other information you’ll need later.
4) Gather witness information
Sometimes, witnesses will be nearby or may even offer to help after a car accident. It’s also important that you take their information so they can relay info about the accident to the authorities later. If witnesses are reluctant to offer information at the scene–which can happen if they are also in shock or distress–leave your contact information with them so they can reach out to you later.
Ask witnesses if they might have taken photos or recorded video footage of the accident scene. It always helps to have additional evidence and information even when you think you’ve collected enough on your own.
If the accident scene is in a high-risk area, such as the side of the freeway, be sure to stay clear of the area first. Do not put yourself in any additional danger–or worse, any witnesses–and worry about gathering more information when you are in a safe area.
5) Preserve information
As police or emergency response are headed to you, you should preserve as much information as you can at the scene of the car accident. Make sure to do this only when it’s safe to do so. Take plenty of photos of the damage to all the vehicles involved. Document where and how they’re positioned on the street. Cover multiple angles while doing so.
You’ll also want to photograph and document any and all visible injuries you and your passengers might have. If you see that there are security cameras around the accident site, ask the building owners/homeowners if you might have a copy of the accident footage. Let the police and insurance companies know that nearby cameras might have caught the accident. Document everything!
What to do after a car accident when information is exchanged and collected
6) Call a tow truck if your vehicle is disabled
Don’t leave your disabled vehicle where it is. It might be in a dangerous location where it can impede traffic or cause other accidents. You should call a tow truck on your own or have your insurance company call and dispatch a tow truck for you.
Do not sign or agree to any tow truck or service that you did not call yourself. You may be taken advantage of by a company that will charge you high prices for towing and storage. Law enforcement agencies will occasionally work with tow truck services and call a tow truck for you. These towing services will charge you exorbitant fees for transporting and storing your car. Make sure you’re the one to make the call first!
7) Don’t admit fault under any circumstance and don’t say you aren’t injured
As far as you’re concerned at this moment, none of this was your fault. You could be injured and not know it yet. Tell yourself these things to prevent you from hurting your case later on. Never admit to the other driver, to the police or the paramedics that the accident is your fault. Also, don’t apologize for the accident where you might imply that you are at fault.
And lastly, don’t say, “I’m ok,” or “I feel fine” after your accident. If you’re in shock, you may not feel any injuries you’ve sustained. Sometimes you won’t feel the real severity of your injuries until the following day. Remember, it’s not your fault. You have nothing to apologize for and you could definitely be hurt and just not know it yet.
8) Report a claim with your insurance company
Get in touch with your insurance company as soon as you can to file your claim. The sooner you do it, the better. It’s easier to remember details of the accident immediately afterward. You also give the insurance company a head start on the investigation. Your insurance company may also be able to schedule a damage inspection and repair, and arrange a rental car for you if you’re eligible for it or need one. Be sure to have all of your information, the other driver’s information, and photos and evidence ready to go when you contact your insurance company.
One way to make it easier to report claims is to have your insurance company’s card on hand. Most insurance companies also have iPhone and Android apps that allow you to call or text chat with an agent right inside the app. Having all of these tools with you when you’re on the road removes friction in the process of reporting claims after an accident. Having your insurance company’s card or app also helps when you’re in non-emergency situations, like having a dead battery or flat tire.
9) Recover and take a breather from the car accident
Everyone responds differently to shock and trauma. Once you’ve ensured your safety and you’ve exchanged information with the other driver, check that you’ve documented the accident and notified your insurance company. Then take some time to gather yourself. Breathe, relax and try to get yourself in a calm and rational place. Take as much time as you need. Once you’re able to sit calmly and think clearly, note down anything you may have missed about the accident while you were gathering your information. Organize all of your notes, photos, videos and the other party’s information so that you can prepare to move forward.
While you’re recovering from your accident, fight the urge to share the accident on social media! We live in a time when everyone casually shares the minutiae of their lives, but insurance companies and private investigators can go digging into your accounts. Don’t say or post anything. You may want your friends and family to know that you’ve been in an accident and show them you’re ok. But you should hold off on posting anything online until you’ve spoken to a lawyer. This leads us to the next step.
10) Hire a competent lawyer
It might be tempting to handle the matters of your car accident on your own, especially if it was a minor one. But trying to deal with the insurance companies and law enforcement on your own may not be the wisest choice. Even if you know that the other person is 100% at fault, and you have all the evidence in the world, the other party’s insurance companies and lawyers will find a way to put some blame on you.
When the other party’s adjusters call you, give them very basic details. Don’t divulge specific information about the accident or your injuries. Let them know that your lawyer will be communicating on your behalf. Make sure you talk to a lawyer who can guarantee that your rights are protected. A good lawyer will get you the maximum compensation you deserve for your damages, injuries and lost wages.
If you’re worried about cost, express that concern to your lawyer. They will usually assess your case for free, and if they decide to represent you, it will almost always cost you nothing out of your pocket. Most car accident attorneys work on contingency, meaning they don’t get paid unless you do, which gives you even more assurance that they will make sure you are compensated and made whole again.
Moving forward after a car accident
Don’t wait too long–every state has limitations on how much time you have to file an injury lawsuit. Once you’re ready to hire a lawyer, you can give us a call or message us at any time here at Accident News Now. We have people ready to answer any questions you have, 24/7, so you don’t need to worry about waiting to call if it’s late at night or into the weekend. If you have questions, concerns or any comments to make, you can reach out to us with absolutely no obligations at all. We’re more than happy to help. Fill out the free consultation form below, or call us at 844-966-0965.