Driving on the road is quite risky, not just for you, but for other drivers as well. No matter how careful you are, you can still become the victim of a car accident through no fault of your own. On average, more than 14,000 accidents happen per day. What’s worse is that after an accident happens, you might not know what to do next.
While there are preventive measures you can take, like driving the speed limit and avoiding distracted driving, those won’t help once you’re already in this situation. In this article, we’ll give you a step-by-step breakdown of what to do if you get into a car accident.
Step 1: Take a deep breath
The first thing you should do immediately after an accident is to take a deep breath and try to remain calm. It’s important to stay focused on the task at hand, which is making sure everyone involved is safe and taken care of.
Step 2: Check yourself for injuries
If you’re injured, you absolutely need to take immediate action. Call 911 or ask someone nearby to do so for you. In the case of a serious injury, we strongly advise against moving too much. Wait patiently for trained emergency personnel to arrive and provide the necessary assistance and care. Remember, prioritizing your safety and well-being is of utmost importance. You could end up worsening your injuries if you try to move around too much.
Step 3: Make sure your passengers are OK
If you’re able to move without too much pain, your next step is to check on your passengers if you have any. Make sure everyone is conscious and able to respond. If anyone tells you they’re injured, or you notice any signs of injury, take immediate action just as you would for yourself. Contact emergency services right away or, if there are people nearby, ask someone to call for help.
Step 4: Get your vehicle off of the road
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the first step you should take once you know everyone is okay is to clear the road, if possible. Of course, this won’t be an option if your car is flipped, stalled, or totaled.
If your car is still drivable, pull over to the shoulder or move it to a safe spot away from traffic. Doing so will prevent any additional accidents from happening and keep oncoming traffic away from the accident scene.
If the accident happens at night, immediately turn on your car’s hazard lights. If you can’t move it, at the very least move yourself and everyone involved to a safe place away from oncoming traffic.
Step 5: Assess both vehicles for damage
Even if you’re involved in a small fender bender and don’t think there is any damage to either vehicle, you should still assess them anyway. That way, you establish liability and provide proof of the incident in case the driver tries to file a claim against you later.
Your first pictures should be of the cars in the exact position of the accident (unless you and the other driver have already moved). Then, take pictures of the damage from multiple angles with your phone.
Step 6: Exchange information
While you’re assessing the damage, the other driver will probably do the same. You’ll probably end up talking to them and, ideally, reaching an agreement. Whether it was your fault or theirs, it’s best to be cordial and cooperative. Exchange the following information:
- Name, address, phone number of each driver involved in the accident
- Make and model of each car
- License plate numbers (for both cars)
- Insurance policy numbers
- Names and contact information of any witnesses
Step 7: Call the police
A minor fender bender or accident you can both drive away from won’t require this step, but if it’s a serious accident, you’ll want to get the police involved. They can create and file their own report of the incident, which you can order a copy of for your insurance claim.
If you’re in a no-fault state, it’s especially important to call the police if the other driver is uncooperative or refuses to exchange information. The officer will still be able to take down their license plate number and make sure they don’t leave the scene without exchanging information.
An official police report will also benefit you tremendously if you end up in a legal battle. When you bring on a Las Vegas accident attorney, they’ll ask you for everything you have that could help your case. And it doesn’t get more official than that report.
Step 8: Decide whether you want to file an insurance claim
Car insurance is designed to protect you financially if you wind up in an accident. However, there are a few caveats. Higher premiums and the possibility of a lapse in coverage are two of them. Usually, the decision of whether to file a claim depends on the following factors:
- Who was at fault in the accident
- The extent of the damage to each vehicle
- Whether anyone involved was injured
- The amount of coverage and type of insurance policy you have
- The other driver’s insurance coverage or policy
Depending on the cost of repairs and your deductible, it might not be worth it or could actually cost you more money in the long run than if you paid out-of-pocket.
Step 9: Contact your insurance company
If you do decide to file a claim, contact your insurance company as soon as possible and provide them with all the information they need. You’ll have to pay your deductible upfront in most cases. Before they make any repairs, the insurance company will negotiate with the other driver’s insurance provider. If they’re unable to reach an agreement, they’ll likely assign you a lawyer.
Step 10: Take care of your health
Your mental and physical health will be important in the days following the car accident. Anxiety after a car accident is common. You may not be fully aware of all your injuries right away. If you weren’t hurt or didn’t experience any pain at the scene, you should still make an effort to get checked out by a medical professional.
If you’ve been in a car accident, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at the time, these steps will help you through the process. Remember to stay focused and make sure your safety is always top priority. Never take on any legal tasks without consulting an experienced lawyer first.
Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.