If you’ve been in a car accident, whether you were at fault or not, there are some necessary actions you need to take. You can’t just drive off and forget about it. Even if no one is hurt and there is minimal damage, there is a correct procedure you must follow. Being in an accident can be shocking, so you must keep a clear head and adhere to the proper measures.
The post-accident process is straightforward in theory, but there are often complications, usually related to insurance disputes. To make the process as quick and efficient as possible, here are the ten essential steps you must follow immediately following a car accident. Depending on the severity of the crash, some of these steps will not be relevant, but it is a helpful checklist to go through to ensure you have covered everything.
As soon as you can do so safely, you must stop. No matter how minor, you should never drive away from the scene of an accident. It is a crime, and you may also be endangering other parties involved who need assistance.
2. Ensure your own safety
In any accident, you must preserve yourself first. Don’t try to help anyone else if it is not safe to do so. Check yourself for injuries and your surroundings for danger before doing anything else. You can’t help anyone if you get struck down by another car, so look out for yourself above all.
3. Check on your passengers
If you are unhurt, make sure the other passengers in your car are OK. If anyone is injured, call the emergency services or ask a bystander to phone for help.
4. Get to safety
The last thing you want is for your accident to cause another one. If the cars involved are still working, move them to a safer area nearby, either on the shoulder or entirely away from the road if possible. If your vehicle does not move, get yourself to safety. If it is not dangerous to do so, it is advisable to put on your hazard lights or set up your emergency triangle to warn other cars. If waiting near a busy road, you could still be in danger. A torch or a phone light will make you more visible to passing traffic and keep you safer.
5. Call for help
Only once you and your passengers are safe should you call for help. If there is no medical emergency, simply call for roadside assistance so that the people and vehicles involved in the crash can be removed from the scene safely. In the event of injury, you should call the emergency services at once. If you’re not injured, it’s still a good idea to seek medical attention on your own later. It’s possible you could have sustained an injury like concussion or whiplash without realizing it.
Even with a minor collision, you should report the accident to the police as soon as possible afterward. A police report will help you when you come to file an insurance claim later.
6. Exchange information
While waiting for help to arrive, you should exchange contact and insurance details with the other drivers involved in the collision. It’s essential to get as much information as you can, including name, contact information, insurance policy details, driver’s license, license plate number, vehicle description, and location of the accident.
Aside from this exchange, you should limit your interaction with the other driver. Anything you say regarding the accident could be mentioned when they file an insurance claim. You want to avoid any discussion of who is at fault. Your insurer will determine this based on the accident reports and the damage to the vehicles involved.
7. Document the accident
Take notes on a notepad or your phone to help you remember all the details of the accident when you contact your insurance company. The more precise picture of the scene you can record, the better off you will be. Draw a diagram of the crash and the events leading up to it, take photos of the vehicles, identify the officers at the scene, and get a copy of the accident report. If there are any witnesses to the crash, talk to them and ask them for their contact details. They may be able to provide crucial evidence in your favor in the event of a dispute.
8. Notify your insurer
As soon as you get back home, you should contact your insurer immediately. Although it may be tempting to settle with the other party in cash, this can often end up being costlier than you think. Damage to your car that seems minor can end up being worse – and more expensive – than it looks. Your insurance provider will tell you exactly what they need from you to process your claim and what to expect throughout the process. What you get from the claim will depend on your particular policy.
9. Get your car repaired
Whether you go through your insurance or not, your car will probably need some repair. Depending on your insurance policy and local laws, your insurer may provide you with a list of repair shops and mechanics from which to choose. Even if you have to select from a prescribed list, you should shop around to find the right one. Check reviews online and ask for quotes to ensure you pick one that offers the best value and isn’t going to rip you off. When you pick your car up, talk through the repair with the mechanic to ensure everything has been done as asked. This is important whether you have brought your car for a major fix or just a minor windshield crack repair.
10. Be careful next time
Now that you have handled the insurance and fixed your car, it’s time to get back on the road. You won’t want to go through that process again or risk an even worse accident, so drive more carefully and be on the lookout for dangerous drivers or hazards on the road.