What to Do After a Car Accident

September 15, 2015
Written by Lucy Murphy, CISR

Hood of car severely damaged after a car accident on a highwayHere’s what to do after a car accident, in a few simple steps:

Step 1: STOP

  • This may sound obvious, but we want to be sure you’re not reading this advice two miles away from the accident scene. The number one rule of what to do after an is accident is stay put. Do not drive away, even if you think the damage is minor. Wait for advice from a police officer and/or your insurance agent first.

Step 2: GET YOURSELF TO A SAFE PLACE

  • Turn on your hazard lights and assess the scene.
  • If your car is blocking traffic and you are able to safely drive it to the shoulder, doing so may prevent secondary collisions.
  • If you ARE injured or if your car is totaled/smoking, seek immediate help for yourself. Leave your car where it is. Remember, for anything more contentious than a fender bender, police investigation work may be involved. In theses cases, it’s probably best not to disturb evidence.
  • If it’s dark outside and/or you are near a busy roadway, stand far away from moving cars. Get a flashlight from your glove compartment if you have one. Keep an eye on your vehicle (i.e. don’t walk away from the scene) to be sure no one is tampering with the car or the evidence.

Step 3: CONTACT AUTHORITIES

  • Call the police. If someone is injured, call 911. Do not attempt to move an injured person unless you are a trained emergency responder.
  • Depending on where you are, it’s possible an officer may not come out for a minor collision. In this case, call your insurance agent to be sure you’re doing all the right things.

Step 4: EXCHANGE INFORMATION

  • Ask other drivers involved for the following information: name, address, phone number, insurance information, and license plate. Ideally, ask to take a cell phone photo of their license and registration.
  • If they don’t have these items or are uncomfortable providing them for a photo, try to get a photo of the driver himself. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be honest in this situation. If you have a photo of the driver at the scene, it will be hard for him/her to argue someone else was driving, etc.
  • Look around for any witnesses who saw the collision. Gather their names and phone numbers as well. This is especially important if you believe you were not at fault or if the other driver fled the scene.
  • Do not admit fault or apologize. You may want to ask if the other driver/passengers are alright, but do not volunteer that you are fine or alright. (An early statement could be used against you if pain emerges later and you need to seek damages at that point.) Here’s more advice on what not to say after an accident.

Step 5: TALK TO AUTHORITIES

  • Talk to the police. Answer all questions honestly. Remember that you may feel okay now and hurt later. It’s okay to say you’re not sure how you feel.
  • Write down the officer’s name and department.
  • Ask for the incident number.

Step 6: DOCUMENT THE SCENE

  • Take photos and/or video of the car and the surrounding area.
  • If you do not have your cell phone on hand, draw a map of the street(s) and the position of the cars, including any structures or obstacles that played a part in the collision.

Step 7: CALL YOUR AGENT

  • This is one of those times when you will be very glad you have a dedicated insurance agent to help you. Call him or her at the scene. If it is after office hours, your agency probably has a call service to handle emergencies like this. Ask about tow service if necessary. Follow up to ask about your claim (if you need to file one) and what is accident forgiveness, if applicable.

Even if you think you know what to do after a car accident, double check each step with an authority at the scene. Car accidents are scary experiences. Your adrenaline is probably pumping; you may feel stunned or disoriented. If you’ve just been in a collision, contact our team for more specific answers or advice.