After a car accident, you may not be thinking clearly—even if you weren’t injured. However, it’s important to try to remain as calm as possible so that you can follow the proper procedures. Here’s what you need to do after a car accident.
- If you can, move your vehicle out of the way.
This is especially important if the accident happened on a busy roadway. The last thing you want is to get struck again by another oncoming car that doesn’t see you or isn’t able to slow down in time. If your car is still drivable, pull it onto the shoulder or into a side street or parking lot and turn on your emergency flashers. If you are unable to move your vehicle, turn on your emergency flashers or set up emergency cones or warning triangles.
- Check yourself and your passengers for injuries.
Sometimes you don’t realize that you are injured right away if you get into an accident because your adrenaline is pumping. Give yourself a once over and make a quick assessment of where you might be hurt. Have your passengers do the same.
- If there are injuries, call 911.
If there are injuries in your vehicle or the one that hit you, you should call 911 to get help to the scene as soon as possible. Only move an injured person if he or she is in imminent danger—like if the vehicle is on fire or they are in danger of being hit by oncoming traffic. Improperly moving someone who is hurt could make his or her injuries worse.
- If there are no injuries, call the police department’s accident or non-emergency line.
If you have a smart phone, you should be able to easily look up the police department’s non-emergency or accident line. But if you don’t have a smart phone call 911 so they can transfer your call.
- If the police do not come…
Sometimes the police won’t come to the scene of an accident. This might be because you live in a large city and there are more serious matters that the police need to attend to, or there might be a more pressing matter happening at that time. If the accident happens during a weather emergency, there might be a lot of other accidents happening and the police may only able to respond to the most serious.
If this is the case, you still need to report the accident. This is crucial. If you don’t get a police report, it will be your word against the other driver’s. If there is a dispute about what caused the accident and there isn’t a police report you might have trouble proving that you weren’t at fault. Also, if the other driver tries to sue you for damages or you notice damage to your car after you have left the scene, you might be out of luck if there is no police report on file.
To report the accident, you just need to go to the nearest police department—or go online in some cities—with the names and insurance information of the drivers involved in the crash. It helps if you have pictures of both of the vehicles at the scene of the crash and the names and contact information of witnesses.
You will also need to get the insurance information, names and contact information of the other driver (or drivers, if multiple were involved).
- If the police are on their way, you can take the time while you wait to do the following:
- Get the names and contact information of witnesses. This will be important if the cause of the accident is disputed down the line.
- Take photos of the damage and any injuries.
- Do NOT accept any money or make any deals.
Some people who are involved in car accidents will beg you not to call the police or file an insurance claim. This may be because they were intoxicated or otherwise at fault for the accident, or they may not have insurance. They might offer you money to cover your expenses or try to make a deal with you. This is a bad idea. You might not know the extent of your injuries or the damage to your vehicle without seeing a doctor or mechanic and the money that the other driver offers you might not be enough to cover your medical bills, car repairs and a rental car. Plus, if the driver is intoxicated or made a blatant error that caused the accident, the police really should be informed. What if they choose to make that mistake again and next time they kill someone?
- Just the facts.
When the police officer arrives, he or she will question each driver involved separately and give you directions for what steps to take next. Depending on the police department’s protocol and the severity of the accident, you might be asked to complete a portion of the police report on your own and either deliver it to the police department or submit it online.
It’s important to be honest when speaking with the police officer, but don’t overelaborate. After an accident, you might be flustered and blurt out something that you don’t mean. Stick to the facts of the situation and avoid apologizing—or blaming anyone—while speaking with the police and the people involved in the accident.
- Call your insurance company right away.
They will talk to you about the accident and either send someone out to look at your car or have you take it to a shop to get an estimate for repairs. The other person’s insurance company may also contact you. Be polite, but again, only state the facts. Or have them call your insurance agent. The sooner you contact your insurance company to get your repairs started, the sooner you can get back on the road again.
- If your insurance rates go up, shop around for car insurance.
Sometimes your car insurance rates can go up after an accident–even if it wasn’t your fault. If your rates go up, it may be time to shop around for a new plan. At Gebhardt Insurance Group, we do the shopping for you, searching more than 40 different insurance companies to find you the best value. Give us a call at (520) 836-3244 or get an online quote for free.