What Should I do After a Car Accident?

1. Stay at the scene:

Never leave the scene of an accident, no matter how minor it seems. 

2. Protect the scene:

Put your vehicle in park, turn off the engine, and turn on your hazard lights.  If you have them, use cones, flares, or reflectors to warn other drivers of your presence.  If the wreck is minor, meaning there is little damage and no injuries, move the vehicles out of the way of traffic, especially if you are on the interstate.

3. Check for injuries:

Check yourself, your passengers, and the other drivers and passengers for injuries.  If in doubt, call an ambulance.  Many injuries worsen or even present themselves later on.  It’s always a good idea to get checked out.  If injuries are apparent, assist the injured if able.  If someone has a neck or spinal injury, do not move them.  Wait for paramedics.

4. Call the police:

Even if there are no serious injuries, you should still call the police.  A police report will be helpful when filing your insurance claim.  The officer will ask for your license, registration, and insurance information. In turn, request the responding officer’s name, badge number, and contact info. Also ask for a final copy of the police accident report for insurance purposes.  A police report can be invaluable to the claim process and help establish who’s at fault.

5. Exchange information:

While waiting for the police to arrive, use this opportunity to exchange names, contact info, and insurance info.  You should obtain the names, address, phone number, and email from each driver, passenger, and eyewitness.  You want to take note of the insurance company, agent, phone number, and policy number of each vehicle.  Also, find out whether the other driver owns the vehicle they were driving.  Finally, write down the make, model, and license plate number of every vehicle involved.

6. Take photos:

Also while waiting for the police to show up, take some photographs of the scene.  This should especially be done before moving the vehicles.  Take wide angle pictures of the whole scene showing the angles and positions of the vehicles.  Take close up pictures of any injuries, vehicle damage, and any traffic signs that you believe may not have been followed.  If you cannot take pictures at the scene of the accident, take them as soon as possible after the accident.

7. Make an accurate record:

When the police arrive, tell the investigating officer(s) exactly what happened, to the best of your ability. If you do not know certain facts, tell that to the officer. Do not speculate, guess, or estimate any of the facts. If you are asked if you are injured and you are not sure, say you are not sure, rather than no. Often, the pain and injuries from motor vehicle accidents become apparent hours after the actual collision. You should also make sure statements made by other persons involved in the accident are accurate as well. 

8. Keep conversations constructive:

Emotions will be running high but try to stay calm and collected.  Your only concern is to politely explain your side of the story.  Do not discuss responsibility for the collision with the other party.  It’s not up to you and the other driver to figure out who is to blame.  Never admit fault.

9. Contact your insurance company:

Call your agent as soon as possible, even at the scene if possible.  After you speak to your agent, notify your insurance carrier to get the claims process started.

10.  Seek medical treatment:

Unless you are absolutely certain you were not injured, you should seek medical attention at your local emergency room or by seeing your primary care physician.  Thereafter, continue seeking treatment on a regular basis for as long as you are experiencing pain or until your doctor you no longer need treatment.

11.  Keep a file:

Keep all your accident-related documents and information together. This information should include your claim number, the claim’s adjuster who is handling the claim, names and phone numbers of all contacts, pictures and video, receipts for your rental car and collision repairs, copies of your medical records, receipts for any medical bills your received, and receipts for any other expenses incurred as a result of the accident.

12.  Protect your rights:

Call your attorney.  Do not sign any document unless it’s for the police or your insurance agent. Do not accept any quick settlements.  Your attorney can protect your rights and make sure valuable evidence is not destroyed. Often, insurance companies want to take statements immediately after an accident. It is important that you have received legal advice before providing such a statement. Your attorney can advise you on issues ranging from how to make sure you are fully compensated for your vehicle to how to make sure you are getting the best medical treatment available.

car accident checklist

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