As if being involved in an accident isn’t stressful enough, there are immediate steps every driver needs to take when it happens. You need to take to make sure everyone is safe and that help is on the way. Additionally, you have to notify all the relevant authorities and follow the correct procedures regarding your insurance policy.
To help drivers around the world, we’ve created a step-by-step guide for the most common types of car accidents. Among others, this guide includes the general steps that must be taken to ensure safety following an accident, how to deal with a collision depending on who was at fault, and what to do after being involved in minor and major accidents, as well as those that include fatalities.
What to Do After a Car Accident – General Steps
Before anything else, it’s important to remember that these are general steps that require a certain degree of flexibility based on the type of accident you’re dealing with.
Consider Your Safety
Getting into a car accident generally entails that you’re on the open road, where other people may be driving fast. Therefore, your first concern is to check your safety. With this in mind, your first step is to turn off the car, right after shifting into park or pulling your hand break. Doing so will decrease the chances of your car rolling away while also minimizing the potential fire hazard. Also, turn on your hazard lights for increased visibility. This is all standard procedure.
When getting out of your car to inspect the damage after the accident, put on a fluorescent vest if you have one. And always keep a close watch on nearby traffic activity. Are cars driving by at high speeds, or did the crash occur on a road with a low speed limit? Depending on whether it’s safe, your next move is to further increase your safety by using cones and warning triangles to signal the spot of the accident. This helps ensure that other drivers can see you from a distance.
See if Anyone Is in Need of Immediate Medical Attention
Numerous minor accidents can be taken care of without having to call the police, an ambulance, or the fire department, especially if the crash only caused material damage. However, if you’ve been involved in a traffic collision, it’s always recommended that you check yourself for any kind of auto accident injury and ask the other people involved if they’re feeling okay. If someone has been hurt, call an ambulance immediately—adrenaline can lower how people perceive the magnitude of their injuries. Additionally, if there’s anybody with first aid training nearby, listen to their instructions when helping the injured.
The same concepts also apply in the case of fire hazards. If you see fuel leaking, sparks, or actual fire, make sure to call the fire department without any hesitation. Also, assist in evacuating everyone from the hazard.
Call the Police
This step depends on your jurisdiction, and on whether local laws demand that law enforcement is informed following an accident. Generally, calling the police after a car accident is a smart move, given the fact that police reports serve as valuable documents when filing a claim with your insurance company. Most regions have enacted laws stating that the presence of a police officer is obligatory if an accident led to injury, death, or the collision of more than two vehicles.
Document the Scene of the Accident and Figure out What Happened
This step ensures that you have a solid understanding of how the accident took place and who was at fault. When creating a record of the accident, take pictures from multiple angles and make sure all relevant details can be seen. These pictures also serve as evidence in case you run into trouble with your insurance company or if the other driver refuses to acknowledge that they were at fault for the crash. So if you’ve had an accident, getting photographic evidence is essential.
However, don’t stop there. Try to collect all relevant data from the other people involved in the accident. This information includes but is not limited to the names and contact information of the driver and any passengers, a description of the vehicles involved in the accident (such as their year, make, and model), license plate numbers, driver’s license numbers, contact information for eyewitnesses, the exact location where the accident took place, the name and badge number of the police officer who responded to the crash, and the name of the insurance companies and policy numbers of the other vehicles. This is standard car accident procedure.
Collaborate with State Authorities Present at the Scene of the Crash
When talking to the police, make sure to give them an accurate representation of how the accident occurred. Before speaking to the officer, make sure that you truly understand how the accident took place to ensure that you don’t give out conflicting information that can make matters worse. Try not to admit fault, but under no circumstances should you lie to the authorities. Rather, use descriptive language that’s based on individual facts.
File an Insurance Claim
Filing an insurance claim is the final step when it comes to what to do after a car accident. This process should be started as soon as possible to ensure that the claim is resolved rapidly and that you’re able to repair your car without major delays. When speaking with the insurance agent, give them all of the data you recorded in the immediate aftermath of the accident, no matter if you were at fault or not.
Before advancing to the next sections of the article, keep in mind that post-accident steps tend to vary depending on whether the accident led to material damages only or to injury or death. The steps also vary based on who was at fault.
In essence, there’s one thing you should avoid doing at all costs: do not flee the scene of the accident! Doing so will likely lead to both criminal charges and civil liabilities.
What to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault
In case you’ve been involved in a car accident that isn’t your fault, the same steps that have been outlined above will apply to you. The main difference is that you want to make sure you pay extra care when it comes down to collecting information and getting the facts of the accident straight. There’ve been numerous situations in which the driver at fault has tried to pin the fault on the victim, and in many cases, this strategy worked.
Therefore, if it is not your fault, know your car accident rights, and double-check each piece of information you receive while making sure that you take high-quality pictures of the accident scene. In case of more severe or confusing accidents (regardless if they only led to material damages), a smart move would be to contact the police and help the officers file a report containing your side of the story.
Following the procedures at the scene of the car crash, filing a claim with your insurance provider should be your first move.
What to Do After a Car Accident That Is Your Fault
In case you happen to be involved in a car accident that is your fault, the standard steps that have been outlined at the beginning of the article should be followed, while keeping several particularities in mind.
To keep things brief, make sure that you are safe, check for injuries, contact the police, collect information from the other drivers, take pictures, take notes, and file a report with your insurance company. This is your what to do after a car accident checklist, so make sure to stick to it at all times.
However, since the accident is your fault in this case, there are several other tips worth taking into consideration. First, remain polite and don’t yell at the responding law enforcement officers—doing so will likely make matters worse. It’s also best to avoid admitting fault, or discussing the details of the accident with the other party involved (the only discussions worth having are with the police and your insurance agent), as all the procedure-focused car accident information points out. Nonetheless, always tell the truth, and if you have to talk about the accident, use descriptive, fact-based language.
Additionally, avoid negotiating with the other party, and choose to follow the strict legal procedures. Negotiation might seem like a smart idea, but it’s often best to let the car insurance agent take care of this.
Last but not least, attorneys and insurance agents generally recommend that the driver at fault should be the last to leave the scene of the accident.
What to Do After a Minor Car Accident
A minor accident is usually regarded as a collision between two cars, or an accident where only one vehicle is involved. The end result of a minor accident is only material damage, to either the car or other objects.
As such, in the case of a minor accident, there’s no need to call an ambulance or the fire department. However, the other tips mentioned above apply: check your safety, use signaling options to make yourself more visible to oncoming traffic, collect as much information as possible about how the accident occurred, and file a claim with your insurance provider.
What to Do After a Car Accident That Involved an Injury
Dealing with material damage is easy since insurance providers usually take care of all the administrative aspects associated with a car crash. On the other hand, injury-based accidents entail procedures that are more complicated, alongside the involvement of health care providers and law enforcement agencies.
As such, the next part of the guide will be divided into two sections depending on the type of automobile injury.
If You Are Injured
Assessing your injuries might be difficult at first, given the fact that your body could be flushed with adrenaline. This means that you’ll likely be highly alert, and you might not feel the extent of your injuries yet. The first step is to call an emergency number, offering information on where you are, what type of collision occurred, and how many people have been injured, as well as what possible injuries you and others have suffered.
If you believe that your back or neck has been hurt, let the dispatchers now and make sure to move as little as possible. There’s little to no reason to move if you’ve been injured in a car accident unless there is a fire hazard nearby.
In situations like these, it’s best to remain still and await the intervention of medical staff, who will guarantee your quick transportation to a nearby medical facility. Things may escalate, as authorities do their best to help injured individuals while also learning more about how the accident took place. Remain cooperative and try your best to offer clear information on how the accident occurred, as well as clear descriptions of how you are feeling from a medical standpoint.
If you’re positive that you’re only dealing with a minor injury, the general steps that have been highlighted above can be taken.
If Other People Are Injured
If you have an accident in which someone is injured, you should: call emergency services as soon as possible, make sure that the scene of the accident is secured (by using triangles or cones), collect information on how the accident occurred, and cooperate with law enforcement arriving at the scene.
In case a fire hazard is present, make sure to evacuate the other persons involved in the accident, especially if they are immobile. Another essential step entails giving first-aid to other injured individuals and making sure they remain conscious. If you don’t have first-aid training, check if there’s a properly trained eyewitness who can help before the intervention of EMTs and police officers.
Generally, being injured in a car accident means that several procedural steps will be taken. You’ll be asked more questions, and the process of filing a claim will be slightly more complicated, depending on your coverage. The overall process is designed to be straightforward, yet its particularities are directly dependent on your jurisdiction and the applicable laws. Generally, it’s important to keep in mind that these events can be quite overwhelming. It’s essential to maintain your calm and be aware that professionals will soon assist you.
If you got into an accident, your situation is greatly improved if the tips outlined above are applied. However, the best philosophy is doing everything you can to avoid an accident. That’s why driving safely, and obtaining additional training (like defensive driving), can be beneficial. Take heart in the fact that most statistics show that the majority of accidents result in material damages rather than actual injury.
We’ve talked about what to do after a car accident, but there’s a major step to consider beforehand: getting the proper insurance. After all, being responsible for a car accident while lacking insurance often leads to massive costs. The entire aftermath of dealing with a car accident can be greatly improved if you opt for all-inclusive car insurance coverage (liability insurance, collision insurance, comprehensive coverage, etc.). Generally, the best coverage packages include reimbursement for damages to all the cars involved in the collision and medical expenses (both for you and for others), alongside access to professionals who will help deal with the administrative procedures.