What to do if you have a car accident
Driving a car is the most dangerous thing most of us do on a daily basis, and it’s quite possible you will someday find yourself involved in an automobile accident. It’s not pleasant to think about that happening, but knowing what to do in case of an accident can make a big difference in how it will affect your life.
The most important consideration is always, always safety – yours, your passengers, and the people in other vehicles involved in the accident. Never do anything that makes you feel unsafe, and never put anyone else’s life in danger no matter what people on the scene may tell you.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind if you find yourself in an accident.
1. Stop your vehicle
Once your car is not moving, put it in park or set the hand brake and turn off the engine. Check to see what your condition is. Watch carefully and if it’s safe, get out. If it is dark and you are alone, do not get out, but do keep your flashers on.
2. Seek medical attention if you are injured
When in doubt, get checked out. Whiplash is the most common injury in car accidents. It can take up to 24 hours for you to develop any noticeable symptoms. If you have any symptoms, including nausea, headaches or vomiting, be sure to see a physician. You may not feel the full extent of the damage until the next day, when you find that you have severe pain due to soft tissue injury. Your doctor may decide after examining you that you are fine. But he/she may determine that you have a concussion or other injury.
3. Check on other people if it’s safe to do so
Check to see if passengers, drivers or pedestrians are injured. When you talk to them, be polite but do not admit responsibility, even if you think it was your fault. If anyone is injured or has any symptoms, call 911. Even people with headaches, dizziness and nausea should be checked by medical care professionals.
4. If you can, move your car to a safe area but do not leave the scene
Try to move your car out of the way of other cars if you aren’t seriously injured. For example, you may be able to move your car to the shoulder of the road. If you can’t get your car out of the way, put on your hazard signal to let other drivers know that you have a problem.
5. Call the police
You need a law enforcement accident report for even a minor accident. Your insurance company will want to have a copy of it. When the police arrive, cooperate fully. Be polite but do not admit responsibility, even if you think it was your fault. Don’t blame it all on someone else, either. The police will review the information and make a decision about who is at fault.
6. Get your information together
After the accident, make notes listing as much of the following as you can.
- Names of each of the drivers, passenger and pedestrians involved
- Tag numbers of each vehicle
- Info about the insurance for the other vehicles
- Make and model of all of the cars
- Names and contact numbers for witnesses
- Place of the accident
- Names and badge numbers of the law enforcement officers
Be sure to take photos of the scene, the vehicles and anything else that would show to what happened to people who were not there. Your insurance company will want to have copies. Many companies allow you to upload them from the scene.
8. Report the accident to your insurance company right away
Most policies require that you contact them quickly and they all require full cooperation. In addition, they will often provide you with “med pay,” which will cover your medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident. If your car can’t be driven, your insurance policy may provide you with roadside help or a rental car. Look at your insurance policy in advance so that you know what is covered.
9. Contact your lawyer
As soon as you are able, contact your attorney and make an appointment to review the facts in your case. You may not need legal representation, but it’s always a great idea to find out on the front end if you need help. Don’t give any statements to any insurance adjusters or others without getting legal advice first. And don’t sign anything without having your lawyer review it first.
10. File your insurance claim
Contact your insurance company at soon as you are able to do so to notify them of the accident. Be sure to keep good records about your claim, including the claim number, when you filed it, to whom you have spoken about it, when you spoke with them and how to reach them again.