A step-by-step guide on what to do if you get into a car accident and a few tips on how to better prepare yourself.
It was a normal day, just like any other. You went through your morning routine, drove on the same route to work, and then boom—you crashed into another car. Suddenly you’re faced with liability issues, insurance claims, car repairs, and depending on the severity of your crash, hefty medical bills. It happens to millions of people every year in U.S., and it will likely happen to you at some point (if it hasn’t happened already).
If you’re looking for advice on what to do if you get into a car accident, you’re already taking a step in the right direction. Being prepared and knowing how to act on the scene could make a huge difference in the aftermath of an auto collision. It’s easy to find yourself in a situation of being wrongfully accused of fault, or if you are responsible, having to pay more than needed.
Here is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on what to do if you get into a car accident. This guide will cover how to be prepared in case an accident takes place, what to do on the scene, and a few important things to watch out for.
Preparation is key to proficiently handling a car accident situation
Before we get into what to do on the scene, let’s first cover what you should be prepared with to execute those steps correctly. To make the experience less painful on yourself and those involved, you should have the following items stored in your car at all times:
- A professionally assembled car safety and first aid kit.
- Your driver’s license, insurance card or information, and vehicle registration.
- Disposable camera (in case you cannot use your cell phone camera).
- Pen and paper to record important information on those involved.
With these items on hand, you should be in good shape to handle the situation and get all the information you need for your insurance claim.
A step-by-step guide on what to do if you get into a car accident
1. Personal safety always comes first
The first minutes after a car accident can be the most confusing. Take a moment to collect yourself and take stock of the situation. If possible, get your vehicle out of harm’s way and onto the shoulder of the road. If your car is unable to move, switch on your hazard lights. If you or anyone in your vehicle has been injured, call 911 immediately. Check to make sure it’s safe to exit the vehicle before doing so.
2. Call the police
You want to notify the police right away if an accident has occurred. If the other party asks you not to involve the police, ignore them. Here are the important reasons why you should always have police on the scene:
- Filling out a police report is one of the most important documents insurance companies use to assign liability.
- Police can properly mediate the exchange of information between you and the other driver.
- You could be committing a crime by not calling the police after an accident.
- A police report will protect you from fraud, and police officers will be able to identify a staged accident.
3. Exchange information with all parties involved in the accident
Have your pen and paper ready and take down the information of all drivers involved in the accident. You’ll want to collect the following: name, address, telephone number, email, driver’s license number, insurance provider, and policy number. Make sure you collect this information straight from their valid identification documents, not from what they tell you.
You will also want to record the following information about the accident itself: time, location, and descriptions of all cars involved (make, model, year, color, and license plate number).
4. Take pictures of the scene
Whether with your phone or a disposable camera, be sure to take pictures of all damage done to each vehicle. You’ll want to document every available angle of the other person’s car, so they cannot claim further damages than what resulted because of the accident. If there are any contextual clues about how the accident took place, like tire marks or placement of the vehicles, snap photos of that evidence, as well. These pictures can help you build the strongest insurance claim possible.
5. Call your insurance company
Contact your insurance company and notify them about the accident as soon as possible. Provide them with all the information you’ve gathered and let them know that you’ve acquired pictures and filled out a police report. You’ll want to give them a detailed description of how the accident happened.
If you’re at fault, you will at least have all this information gathered to possibly lower the other driver’s claim or work toward establishing partial responsibility. If the accident is not your fault, the provided information will help you build the strongest claim possible.
A few important things to remember
Not everything goes as planned when you’re trying to document an auto collision. You might end up with a driver that does not have car insurance, or perhaps the police don’t show up to the scene. Here are a few things to keep in mind on what to do if you get into a car accident:
- Never admit fault to the other driver or police. Let the insurance companies do their job. If you mistakenly put yourself at risk by verbally stating you might have been at fault, it could work against you down the road. Keep the talking to a minimum with the other driver.
- If the police do not show up at the scene, file a report at the nearest station as soon as possible. You want to have your side of the story recorded in an official document.
- Obtain contact information of any witnesses of the accident.
- If the officers do arrive and make a report, be sure to collect their names and badge numbers for later reference.
- Call your insurance company as soon as possible.
Protect yourself by being prepared for anything
Knowing what to do if you get into a car accident comes with good preparation. Having the proper items stored in your vehicle and committing these steps to memory will help to ensure a better financial outcome.
Of course, if you’ve been seriously injured as a result of the collision, call 911 immediately and stay put. You can always collect this information later down the road or request that your insurance company do it for you.
If you have a less-than-perfect driving record due to serious auto accidents, multiple claims, or motor vehicle violations, we have auto insurance coverage for you.