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Let’s be frank: A car crash can make you an emotional wreck. You can, however, ease post-crash stress by equipping yourself with knowledge about what to do after a car accident. This is especially important when it comes to shielding yourself from financial consequences in the wake of an accident.
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Here are 12 things you should do after a car accident.
1. Pull Over
If possible, move your car to a safe, well-lit place that’s out of the way of traffic. Even parking on a sidewalk is better than remaining on the road, which could create a traffic hazard. Put on your emergency lights to alert other motorists.
2. Check for Injuries
Figure out whether anybody in your car or the other cars involved has been injured. If so, you call 911 to summon an ambulance.
3. Stay Calm
An auto accident can rattle anyone. But it’s best to stay as calm and level-headed as possible when you’re coping with the aftermath of a crash. Try to avoid angrily shouting at other drivers involved or pinning blame on someone else.
Take a few deep breaths or count to 10 to calm down. The calmer you are, the better prepared you will be to handle the situation. This is the time to take stock of the accident and try to make a judgment about whether it was a serious one.
Be sure to make your passengers comfortable before leaving the car to scope out the scene. For instance, don’t leave the windows closed if it’s a hot day.
4. Contact the Police
Depending on the circumstances, the local police department may dispatch an officer and gather information for an accident report. Be sure to get the names and badge numbers of any officers who arrive at the scene, as well as the accident report number.
If the police don’t show up, you may want to call the police yourself if the situation warrants it. The Texas Department of Transportation recommends calling the police after an accident if:
Someone was injured or killed.
The vehicles can’t be moved.
One of the motorists appears to be drunk.
One of the drivers does not have auto insurance.
One of the motorists leaves the accident scene.
If an officer doesn’t come to the accident scene, head to the closest police station to file a report about the accident. This information can be helpful if another driver winds up suing you, or the damage to your car turns out to be more severe than you thought.
Keep in mind that some states require drivers to report car accidents. State laws vary on when reporting is required and how long you have to file a report. In many states an accident must be reported if there is a death, injury or property damage over $1,000, but in some states the threshold is lower, $300 or $500, so be sure to check your state laws.
5. Remain at the Accident Scene
If you struck a car, hit a pedestrian or plowed into an object, don’t flee. Leaving the scene of an accident without identifying yourself to the victim or providing aid to an injured person could lead to criminal penalties. At the very least, leave your name, address and phone number on the windshield if you hit a parked, unoccupied car.
6. Assess the Damage
Once you’ve made sure everyone involved in the crash is safe, walk around your car to check the damage. You’ll likely want to document the damage by taking photos or video on your cellphone.
7. Jot Down the Details
After an accident, it’s time to go into detective mode. Be sure to take note of the make and model of the cars involved, the license plate numbers, the location of the accident, the time of day and the weather conditions.
8. Share information
Exchange names, phone numbers and email addresses of drivers, passengers and witnesses. Also, exchange insurance information, such as insurance company names and phone numbers, as well as each driver’s insurance policy number. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recommends that you don’t provide your home address or your driver’s license number. This prevents identity theft and keeps you safe from potentially dangerous situations if others know where you live.
9. Don’t Admit Fault
While you may be sorry about what happened, don’t admit fault. This sort of admission could come back to bite you, especially if another driver takes you to court.
To further protect yourself, don’t sign any documents unless they’re given to you by the police or your insurance company. In addition, don’t strike a deal with another driver who offers to give you cash if you agree not to file an insurance claim. You don’t really know the extent of your vehicle’s damage at the accident scene, and you want to keep your options open for filing a claim against another driver.
10. Start the Claim Process
Be sure to call either your insurance company or insurance agent as soon after the accident as you can, even if it was someone else’s fault.
11. Get Medical Help
Following an auto accident, you might shrug off your aches and pains. It’s best not to ignore them, though. You might have suffered serious injuries and may not be fully aware of it.
12. Save Documents
After a crash, keep repair bills, medical records and other documents related to the crash. They will come in handy for insurance claims or for any court proceedings that might arise.
Saving on Car Insurance After an Accident
If you’ve caused an accident, you may see your insurance rates increase at renewal time. Or perhaps you opted for an accident forgiveness plan in order to avoid a hike in costs.
Even with an accident or claim on your record, you can still potentially save money on car insurance by shopping around. The best cheap car insurance companies for drivers with an accident record can be different from the cheapest insurers for good drivers.
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