Even the most careful drivers get into fender benders. While it’s best to be safe on the road and practice defensive driving to avoid road accidents, it’s in your best interest to know what to do in case the inevitable happens.
In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to keep a clear head and recall all the things that must be done so your insurance can effectively take care of the cost of medical bills and vehicle repairs. Due to this, you may want to keep a “what to do after a car accident” checklist handy in your vehicle. It’s a small thing that can make a huge difference in protecting yourself and others. Print or bookmark this page on your phone so that the next time you get into a road accident, you’ll know exactly what to do.
What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
So you just got into a car accident—now what? The first thing to remember in the event of a fender bender is to stay calm. You’ll need your wits about you as you go through all the steps you need to take in order to ensure that you and your passengers are safe, as well as to secure a fair settlement for any possible injuries and vehicular damage.
Step 1: Assess the situation and seek medical attention.
The first thing that you should do immediately after an accident is to check if you or any of your passengers require urgent medical care. If someone is hurt, call 911 immediately. Even if no one seems visibly injured, it’s best to take things slowly—the body may not initially feel the effects of the crash because of the adrenaline rush.
Step 2: Take note of the details.
While waiting for emergency services to arrive, take the time to record a voice note of what you remember about the moments leading up to the accident. Recording this immediately will help you document important details that you may forget after the initial shock wears off. It’s very common for your mind to feel fuzzy or scattered after such a jarring incident—and unfortunately, this makes it more likely for you to forget the exact details of what happened.
Remembering all the details for the police report is key for your insurance company. Typically, a more detailed report can lead to faster processing of your claims.
Step 3: Call the police.
The next thing to do is to call the police to report the incident. This is incredibly important, especially if the other party is hostile and confrontational. The car accident police report will be necessary for filing your insurance claim. Only speak about the accident to the police, emergency workers, and your insurance agent.
Do not agree to any settlement offers by the other party to handle the repairs without insurance or calling the police.
In most states, drivers are legally obligated to report road accidents to the authorities.
Step 4: Prioritize safety.
If your vehicle is in the way of traffic and poses a hazard to other motorists, it’s a good idea to get it to the shoulder and off the main road. Do this only if your vehicle can move under its own power. Do not have other motorists try to tow or pull your vehicle to the shoulder. Ideally, you should move the vehicle after the police have arrived. If this is not possible because of significant damage, use flares or set-up a reflective emergency triangle or early warning device to signal other vehicles that a hazard is up ahead.
Stay alert while setting up these devices as oncoming vehicles may not see you.
Step 5: Document the accident and call your insurance company.
Cooperate with the police and describe the incident in as much detail as possible. Stick to the facts and avoid making speculations. Be ready to describe the direction the vehicles were going, road conditions, weather, and visibility. Do not admit to being at fault—even if you think you are responsible for the accident. Admitting fault may be a violation of your insurance contract, which can make it difficult to get a fair settlement or even get your claims denied.
Write down the make, model, year, and registration information of the vehicles involved. Take note of the time and location of the incident. Collect other pertinent information such as names, addresses, and phone numbers of all parties, including any witnesses and the name and badge number of the police officer who assisted you.
Drivers are not required by law to show their license to the other party of a car crash. However, it is a good idea to request to see their license to verify that the information they have provided is correct.
Take pictures of any damage to your vehicle with your phone or a camera once it is safe to do so. It is also a good idea to take photos of your injuries. This information will help support your car accident insurance claim.
Step 6: Exchange insurance information.
One of the most important things to do after a car accident is to exchange insurance details with the other party (or parties) involved. Be sure to note their insurance company and policy number.
There are even some insurance companies that offer mobile applications that make it easier for you to record the details of an accident and send it to your insurance agent. Your representative should walk you through the process of filing your car accident claim.
Depending on the type of insurance coverage you have, it can apply to any of these things:
- Your own injuries
- The other driver’s medical bills
- Repairs for your vehicle
- Repairs for the other driver’s vehicle
- Emergency roadside service (optional)
- Temporary transportation (optional)
What to Do After a Minor Car Accident if You Don’t Have Insurance
Driving without car insurance is illegal in most states. This ensures that drivers have the financial capability to cover any damages should they cause an accident. Driving while uninsured not only puts you at risk of paying fines and losing your license, but it also means you’ll have to deal with the cost of vehicle repairs out of your own pocket.
Most states require the person at fault to use their insurance to cover the cost of damage and injury to all victims. In 12 “no-fault” states, each driver can make claims from their own insurance companies regardless of who is responsible for the crash.
If you are the victim in a road accident, being uninsured may limit the amount you can receive for injuries and vehicular damage. You may also be required to pay a huge deductible before you can even think about suing for property damage costs.
Being involved in a crash without insurance will also cost you higher rates when you decide to purchase car insurance later.