Being involved in a car accident is not a situation anyone wants to be in, whether you’re the at-fault driver or the driver who was hit. It can be a very scary, stressful time, and it’s completely understandable that you might be flustered and might not quite know what to do. These are the steps you can take after a car accident.
Steps to take after a car accident.
First of all, we’ll give a quick list of steps you can take. We’ll go into more detail later.
- Don’t leave the scene. Move the car to a safe place if possible.
- Do a check of all drivers and passengers involved in the accident.
- Call the police.
- Exchange contact information.
- Don’t admit fault.
- Take photos of the scene and the vehicles.
- Get contact information from witnesses.
- Call your insurer.
- Keep careful records of any medical treatment you need.
- Get the insurance company’s property damage valuation for your car.
- Don’t discuss the accident with anyone other than the police, your insurance company, and your attorney.
1. Stay at the scene – do not leave.
Get your car to a safe place if it’s possible to do so and stop the vehicle. If you leave the scene and don’t stop, you could be in big trouble for being a hit-and-run driver, especially if there’s property damage, injuries, or fatalities.
2. Check and see if everyone is okay.
Check on all passengers and drivers involved in the car accident. If anyone is unconscious or has neck or back pain, do not move them – wait for emergency personnel to get there.
3. Call the police.
If there is property damage, injuries, or deaths at the scene, you need to call the police. Make sure to inform emergency services of any injuries at the scene and give them a detailed description of your location. Answer any questions that the dispatcher might have and wait to hang up until they say you can be disconnected.
When the police get there, ask them to file a police report. Take note of the officers’ names, badge numbers, and which police department they’re from.
4. Exchange information.
Get the names, phone numbers, addresses drivers’ license numbers, and license plate numbers of all drivers involved. (Also, get the other drivers’ basic insurance information.) If there are any passengers, get their names, numbers, and addresses as well.
5. Don’t admit fault for the accident.
Try to avoid saying anything that could be perceived as admitting fault for the car accident. Even if it seems pretty clear to you that you were at fault, don’t say anything that could be taken as you taking responsibility for the accident. It might also be tempting to apologize for any wrongdoing you might feel you committed, but try not to say anything that could be construed as you admitting fault.
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6. Take photos.
If it’s safe to do so, take photos of the scene and all cars involved in the accident (including yours.) Having pictures or video can help you when you go to file the insurance claim, and it can also help if you end up in a courtroom.
7. See if there are any witnesses.
If there are any witnesses to the accident, get their names and phone numbers if they’re willing to provide them.
8. Call your insurance company.
The next thing you need to do is call your car insurance company. You need to tell them very clearly what happened, giving any details they ask for and explaining the situation. Be honest – if you aren’t completely truthful to the insurance company, you could get in trouble later on and your claim might not be covered at all.
9. Record all of your medical treatments and expenses.
If you were injured in the car accident and need medical treatment, be sure to keep a detailed record of your medical bills. Keep tabs on any medical reports, bills, treatments, or medications. (It’s also important to consider how your injuries affect your daily life. Did you have to miss work? Are you prevented from doing certain activities that were essential to you before the accident?)
10. Get your insurance company’s property damage valuation.
You’ll have to get a property damage valuation from your car insurance company. If you disagree with how the insurance company values your car, get a few independent quotes for the repairs or replacement. Be upfront with the adjuster about your thoughts and concerns. If need be, consult an attorney.
11. Don’t talk about the accident.
It’s also important that you’re careful about discussing the car accident. Only talk about it with your lawyer, your insurance company (NOT the other driver’s insurance company), and the police. If the other driver’s insurance company calls you and wants to talk, politely decline and ask them to speak with your attorney (if you’ve hired one) or your insurance company.
12. Be careful about accepting early settlements.
If you’re offered an early settlement, be careful. You don’t know if your injuries are completely healed or if you’ll need more treatment later on (sometimes injuries from car accidents take time to make themselves apparent.) Consult an attorney before signing any settlement documents, and don’t settle the claim until you’re certain that all of your injuries will be completely treated.
Getting into a car accident is stressful, and it can be difficult to know how to proceed. Don’t forget to exchange information with the other driver, file a police report, take pictures of the vehicles if it’s safe to do so, and call your insurance company. Your insurance company can walk you through the claims process and help you get your car either repaired or replaced (if the vehicle has been totaled) so that you’re once again with a set of wheels.
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