Nearly 8 million drivers are involved in property damage accidents and over 4.4 million people are injured in a crash every year. Whether it’s a minor or serious, the shock of being involved in a car accident can leave you so stunned that you’re unable to react.
If you are involved in a car accident, stay calm and run through the following procedure.
What to Do After a Car Accident
The moments after a crash can be disorienting. When you get your bearings, assess the situation and take the following steps.
1. Check for Injuries and Call 911
The first thing you should do is check if you and your passengers are injured. If not, get out of the vehicle (if it is safe to do so), and check on the occupants of the other vehicles. If anyone is injured, call 911 for medical assistance.
2. Move to the Side of the Road
If everyone is able to exit the vehicle, move to the side of the road to wait for emergency vehicles. If it’s possible, move vehicles out of the way of oncoming traffic.
3. Exchange Information
Exchange insurance and contact details with the other driver immediately. If there were witnesses, collect their information as well.
When the police arrive, they will take statements and want details of how the accident occurred. If you were injured, the EMT may inquire about your medical history. Cooperate fully with police and medical officers.
4. Document the Accident
David Perecman, Founder and Lead Trial Attorney at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. says many people don’t know how to properly document the scene of an accident. This can lead to problems with insurance and legal matters later on.
“Use a cell phone to take pictures of all vehicles involved, including their locations, license plates, as well as any interior damage, markings, or debris created by the accident,” says Perecman. “ If you are injured as a result of the accident, take pictures of any bruises, abrasions, lacerations, or if you are bandaged up, placed in a wheelchair or crutches, or put in a cast, brace or sling."
Perecman also advises taking notes of the following at the scene:
The direction each vehicle was heading and how fast they were driving.
Any possible distractions.
Any statements or actions taken following the accident.
Don’t rely on memory. A few days after the accident, you may forget or not remember details as clearly.
What to Do if the Accident Was Not Your Fault
If you were not at fault, the other party may deny fault, so documenting the crash becomes even more important. Here’s what else you should do.
1. Don’t Become Emotional or Argumentative
Emotions can run high immediately after a crash. Accusations can take place, and it can quickly escalate into a heated confrontation. Before you engage with the other driver, take a deep breath to steady yourself. Bear in mind that the other person is probably also in shock. Overreacting can make things worse.
2. Report the Accident to the Police
If the police were not on the scene at the time of the accident, make sure you report it within 24 hours. Present all your photos and notes as evidence and request a copy of the police report to submit to the insurance company.
3. Go for a Medical Examination
If you were injured, go for a medical examination. To pay for medical expenses, the insurer will need a copy of the medical report.
4. File a Third-Party Insurance Claim
If the other person is at fault, their insurance should cover the damage to your vehicle. If the driver is underinsured or uninsured, you’ll have to file a claim with your insurer. In some states, a no-fault law applies. This means each person submits a claim to their own insurance company.
What Teens Should Do After an Accident
The first time a teen is involved in an accident, they may not know what to do.
“Following an accident, it’s important for teen drivers to remain calm and pull their vehicle over to a safe spot," says Perecman. "Call 911 to have the police come to the scene. If someone is injured or fluid is leaking from the car, ask for immediate emergency and medical assistance."
Parents should discuss driver safety with their teen and the steps they should follow in the event of an accident. These should include the following:
Never drive off after a car accident. A hit-and-run is a serious traffic offense. If someone was injured or killed in the accident and your teen is caught, they could face a felony charge.
Call a parent. A car accident is a traumatic experience for a teen and they’ll welcome your support.
Take notes and photos of the scene.
Remain respectful to the other driver and cooperate with law enforcement officers. “Teens should avoid making comments to the other drivers and admitting fault, but don’t lie,” advises Perecman.
Sometimes what happens on the road is beyond your control. That’s why we encourage drivers of all ages to take a defensive driving course. You’ll learn how to anticipate problems and react in a way that avoids a crash, keeping you and other road users safer.