Getting into a car accident is never fun – especially when it’s your first time. If you’re like most people, you’ll be overwhelmed by what happened and unsure of what to do.
Fortunately, the post-accident process is relatively straightforward. As long as you keep a cool head, you can take several steps that will ensure your safety and protect your rights. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a quick guide on what to do after a car accident.
1. Check for Injuries
First, determine whether you or anyone else in your car was injured in the accident. If someone is seriously injured, don’t move them unless the car is on fire. Instead, call the emergency services or ask a bystander to call for help.
If nobody’s injured, get to safety as soon as possible. If your car is safe to drive and is blocking the road, pull it to the side of the road and turn on the hazard lights. If the car isn’t operational or there’s a danger of an explosion, get everyone away from the vehicle immediately.
2. Call the Police
Regardless of whether the accident was a fender-bender or a major collision, you should always call the police. In some states, this is legally required. At the very least, the responding officers will fill out the accident report, which will come in handy during the claims process.
3. Exchange Information
While you’re waiting for the police to show up, exchange information with the other driver. The information you’ll want to collect includes their name and contact information, insurance information, driver’s license number, and license plate number.
Try to avoid hashing out the details of the crash with the other driver. Make sure not to admit guilt, blame the other driver for the accident, or let them know about your insurance policy limits. Everything you say can come back to bite you when the time comes to file your claim.
4. Document the Accident
After talking to the other driver, you’ll want to document the accident. Start by taking pictures of both vehicles from different angles to show the damage. Write down everything you remember about the accident, including road conditions and the speed you were driving.
If there were any witnesses, talk to them and write down everything they’ve seen. Write down their names and contact information as well. Do it as soon as possible, as most witnesses will leave the scene upon confirming that nobody was seriously injured.
5. Notify the Insurer
Finally, you’ll want to report the accident to your insurance company. Not doing so soon after the accident will make it much harder to file a claim down the road. Your insurer will let you know what you need to process your claim and what to expect from this process.