What to Do After a Car Accident

Did you just get into an accident? There are many steps you'll need to follow so you can get on with your life. Here's what to do.
Man making phone call after accident.

A car accident can come out of nowhere. They can be scary, and it can be hard to know what to do right away. You may wonder who you’re supposed to call or what you need to do if you can’t drive your car. The important thing to remember is that, with all the vehicles on the road, car accidents can happen. But if you act calmly, swiftly, and safely, you’ll be closer to moving on with your life.

Some accidents are worse than others. It could be something as small as a minor scrape or fender bender with another car. Or it could be a major collision that causes lots of damage and potential injuries. Whichever it is, you must handle it properly to ensure the best possible outcome. Follow these steps if you just got into a car accident:

1. Look for injuries

Safety is more important than anything else. Check for injuries to yourself or others. This includes passengers in your car, pedestrians, or other drivers. Call an ambulance or medical help if anybody has sustained any injuries. If you’re injured and can’t call for help, try seeing if someone else can call for you.

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2. Move your car to safety

Cars in the middle of the road after an incident can block traffic and could potentially cause more accidents. If you’re able to, move your car off the road to a place where you can safely assess the damage and call 911. This could be a shoulder on the side of the road or a nearby parking lot. Leave your car where it is if it can’t drive or if you or a passenger has serious injuries.

Make sure that there’s no oncoming traffic before you move from the spot of the accident. It’s also a good idea to turn on your hazard lights so that other drivers in the area know an accident has occurred. Once off the road, you’ll be able to look for more injuries or check for damages your car may have taken. If you have them, you should also set up hazard equipment such as flares, cones, or other reflective signs.

Note that you must stay on the scene of the accident. Don’t move your car too far away from where the accident happened. You’ll more than likely need to talk to the other people involved and collect info. And you’ll have to work with the police or emergency services when they arrive. You could face legal problems if you get into an accident and decide to flee the scene.

3. Call 911 and report the car accident

You should call the police if you get into an accident. Especially if it blocks the road or caused injuries. Keep in mind that every state has unique requirements for how you should report a car accident. Though state requirements can vary, you must usually file a report if the accident resulted in injury, death, or substantial property damage.

Once they arrive on the scene, the police will most likely document the scene and write an accident report. Be sure to collect the names and badge numbers of any officers at the scene. You should also try to talk to the police about how you can get a copy of the report that they filled out while they were there. Having a copy of the report will help you get more info about the scene and will help you when you file an insurance claim.

Sometimes, law enforcement may not respond to the accident, especially if it’s minor. If they don’t show up at the scene for some reason, you can go to a nearby police department and fill out an accident report. In some cases, you may also be able to go online and fill out an accident report on their website.

4. Document the scene

One of the most vital steps you can take after getting into a car accident is documenting the scene. This includes taking photos or video, collecting documents from other drivers, finding eyewitness accounts, or asking for contact info.

Here’s some useful info you should collect after a car accident:

  • Documents from any other drivers involved such as driver’s licenses, car registrations, and insurance cards
  • Accounts of the accident by witnesses or passersby
  • Pictures or witness accounts of injuries to yourself, passengers, or other drivers involved
  • Pictures of the road, damage to your car, or damage to other cars
  • Make and model of your car and any other cars involved
  • Names and badge numbers of police officers at the scene
  • Location/address of the accident
  • Time of day and weather

Gathering the above will help you have enough info on your side when you go to file a claim with your car insurance company. It may also help you with the police if they must determine if someone’s at fault. You may not be able to get all of it after the accident, especially if you’re injured or need to help others. Just try your best to document as much as possible.

5. Call for roadside assistance

You may need to call for assistance if your car can’t drive after an accident. Roadside assistance can help you get a tow truck to move your car off the road. You can get roadside assistance plans through your car insurance company or with an auto club such as AAA. But you can also get it from some credit card companies, car manufacturers, or cell phone providers.

6. Contact your insurer

It’s crucial to contact your car insurance company as soon as possible after getting in an accident. They’ll be able to help you get started with filing a claim and getting your car any needed repairs. But don’t put off calling your insurance company. It’ll be hard to remember everything about the incident, even after a few days.

Remember to give your insurer as much info about the accident as you can. It might even be helpful to call your insurer at the scene of the accident so there’s little chance you’ll forget something. Per Allstate, your insurance provider might also walk you through key details you need to give them to file a claim if you call them immediately after the accident.

How to Be Ready for a Car Accident

You never know when you’re going to get into a car accident. Other drivers can be unpredictable, weather can cause roads to be hazardous, or your car may have an unforeseen issue. Despite our best efforts, accidents happen. That’s why it’s important to be ready well before you get into an accident. Below are some things you can do to prepare for a car accident:

  • Store important documents in your car. This includes things such as your car registration, proof of car insurance, ID cards, or health insurance info.
  • Store a safety kit in your car. Putting together a kit with useful items can help you in the aftermath of an accident. These safety kits usually have things like flares, reflective gear, a first-aid kit, and more.
  • Ensure you have proper coverage. Minimum liability coverage can only go so far in an accident. Coverage options such as collision insurance help pay for the repairs after a crash with another vehicle or object.
  • Own a vehicle with modern safety features. Newer cars come with technology that can help prevent accidents or protect you during one. Many insurers also offer special discounts to people whose cars have safety features such as anti-lock brakes and airbags.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you deal with auto insurance after a car accident?

A: You should get in contact with your car insurance company ASAP after you get into an accident. But before you call them, you should make sure you’ve collected enough info about what happened during and after the accident. It’s a good idea to write down any key details you want to bring up or discuss with your insurer on the phone.

Q: Can I file an insurance claim online?

A: Many car insurance companies allow you to file a claim or track info about it online or on their mobile app. Double-check with your insurer to see if they have options for filing online.

Q: What if I hit a car with nobody in it?

A: If you hit a car with nobody in it, such as in a parking lot, don’t worry. The steps you should take are almost the same as a collision with another driver. Try to find the car’s owner if you can. If there’s nobody to talk with afterward, you’ll have to leave a note with your contact details and insurance information. You should also take note of the car’s make and model and the location of the accident.

Q: What shouldn’t I do after a car accident?

A: There are a few things you should never do after a car accident:

  • Never leave the scene. You could face legal trouble if you flee the scene and get caught, especially if the accident caused property damage or injury.
  • Never admit fault. Other drivers and/or police officers at the scene can use your words against you. Even if you think you might’ve caused the accident, don’t say anything.
  • Never blame other people. This could lead to unneeded conflict that could put you and other people in danger.
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