Each year, there are six million car accidents in the US, which result in three million injuries. Hopefully, you won’t be one of those numbers. But, if you are involved in a vehicle accident, it is crucial to know what to do in the moments following.
Getting into even a minor car accident is always scary. But, it is important to stay calm and avoid panic. In the moments after an accident, there is much to deal with, including accessing injuries, calling for assistance, and speaking with the other drivers. Panic and overwhelming emotions will not make the situation easier. So, if it is safe to do so, take a few deep breaths, regain your calm, and put your thoughts in order before you exit the vehicle. Remember, it is normal to feel a sense of shock, anger, anxiety, and worry in the moments and days after an accident.
Check for injuries and call 911
The most pressing concern immediately after an accident is getting medical attention for anyone who needs it. Do a quick check of yourself and the passengers in your vehicle to determine if anyone needs emergency medical attention. If there are obvious injuries or medical needs, place a call to 911.
While speaking with the emergency operator, tell them clearly your location, briefly state the type of emergency, and describe the condition of anyone who is injured. Then, stay on the phone with the dispatcher and follow any instructions they provide.
Even you do not need emergency medical services, it is still important to visit your doctor or hospital following a car crash. Some injuries may not be apparent right away. Plus, shock and adrenaline following a car crash may temporarily prevent you from feeling pain or understanding the severity of an injury.
File a police report
If you have called 911, a police officer will already be on the way. If not, you can use the non-emergency number to report an accident and start the process of obtaining an accident report. In most cases, an officer will come to the scene. If not, you can visit the nearest police station to start the report. A completed accident report is an important document that will aid your insurance company, so do not skip this step even in minor accidents
Move to safety
After an accident, everyone should get out of the road as quickly as possible to avoid further danger. There is conflicting information floating around about whether or not you should move a vehicle after an accident. If possible, snap a quick photo of the scene and the location of the vehicles. Then, if it is safe to do so, move the cars off the roadway and onto the shoulder to avoid causing additional accidents. Turn on your hazard lights and wait nearby for assistance.
With the immediate medical needs addressed, you should turn your attention to exchanging information with the other drivers. This can be a tense moment, but remember that your only goal is to collect and give the necessary information. Now is not the moment to discuss fault or repairs. If the other driver refuses to exchange information, do not press the issue. The bulk of the necessary information will be in the police report, and your insurance company can obtain anything else. Be prepared to ask for and provide:
Name of the car insurance provider
Insurance policy number
Phone number of the insurance provider
Driver’s license information
Driver’s contact information
Make, model, and year of the vehicle
License plate number
It is also a good idea to determine if any of the vehicles involved are government vehicles. If you are injured in an accident with a government-owned and operated vehicle, The California Tort Claims Act may allow you to sue for compensation for those injuries.
Start the insurance claims process
Once everyone is safe and the scene is cleared, it is time to contact your car insurance company to start the claims process. Unlike taking care of medical needs, getting a police report, and exchanging information, you don’t need to do this step immediately or at the site of the accident. But, you should contact your insurance provider as soon as possible, even in the case of minor accidents. Even when injuries don’t appear immediately, pain can start later. Plus, even car damages that look insignificant can be costly to repair.