The Ultimate Guide to What to Do After a Car Accident

Every year, there are over 5 million police-reported car accidents in the US. So if you’re on the roads often, it’s a question of “when” not “if” you’ll be in a crash.

Whether it’s a small fender bender or a large and serious collision, it’s always stressful having an accident. And no matter how many times you’ve been through them, you’ll probably be frazzled. However, knowing what to do after a car accident ahead of time can save you lots of trouble. Be prepared now, so a high-stress situation’s more manageable.

Read on to see the vital steps you need to take when you’re involved in a car crash.

Stay at the Scene

It’s of the utmost importance that you stay at the scene, even if everyone seems fine and the cars seem unscathed. If you leave the area before doing some of the following steps, then it can be considered a hit-and-run. Depending on where you live, the legal consequences of a hit-and-run can include suspension or cancellation of your driver’s license, lifetime revocation of your driver’s license, or long stints in prison.

If there’s a law enforcement officer on the scene, make sure you get permission from them to leave before you do so.

Assess Everyone’s Condition

Right after the crash, see what injuries you and your passengers have. Call 911 immediately if anyone is seriously injured and needs prompt medical attention. Otherwise, if you and your passengers are ok, get out of the vehicle and check on everyone else. Again, call 911 if there are serious injuries.

It’s essential that you don’t move people unless absolutely necessary. You may cause additional damage, especially if they’ve injured their spinal cords. Only relocate people if they’re in immediate danger, such as a fire. Never try to provide medical assistance unless you’re trained for it.

If you’re able to, move to a safer area. You don’t want to be hit by oncoming traffic or burned by fire.

Call 911

You’ll only need to call 911 in certain cases, such as if there are serious injuries. Depending on the state law, you’ll have to call 911 if the crash meets certain conditions, such as an excess of $1,000 in property damage. Even if the car accident isn’t big and no one’s badly hurt, it can be a good idea to have law enforcement officers on the scene. They can officially document everything and provide you with a police report, which will be useful in insurance claims and lawsuits if you decide to pursue one.

If you go this route, make sure you get the police officers’ full names and badge numbers. This will make it easier to get the police report if you need another copy. If the accident happens in Texas and you want access to the official report, you can easily find the TxDOT crash report online. All you need is some of the collision information and your vehicle’s license plate.

Move the Vehicles

For smaller collisions, you can move the vehicles off to the shoulder so that you won’t impede regular traffic. However, if the cars aren’t operable, put down flares and reflective emergency triangles if you have them. In both cases, turn on your hazard lights so the cars approaching know to slow down and be careful.

Don’t worry if you’re not able to move the vehicles. Everyone’s safety is more important!

Watch What You Say

Before you start interacting with the other parties involved, be conscious of what you’re saying. Don’t even say something like “I’m sorry”, as this can be taken as admitting fault. Even if it’s obvious that you caused the accident, you should never admit fault or imply that you’re guilty. In addition, don’t make promises to these people. They’ll do anything to take advantage of the situation, so it’s in your best interest to stay quiet. It’s imperative that you stay quiet on social media too. While it can feel amazing to vent to your friends, you should only do it in person, and with a select few people.

You might think you’re being smart by posting about your car accident on “friends only”. But the truth is, not everyone has good intentions for you, so it’s possible that someone on your friend’s list will screenshot these posts and give them to the other parties. It’s best if you don’t say anything about the accident until things have been settled.

Exchange Information

Once everyone’s safe and settled, you’ll need to exchange information with all parties involved. You should get their full names and contact information, such as their phone numbers or email addresses. Get their car insurance details down too, such as the companies and policy numbers.

Are you involved in an auto collision where the drivers aren’t the owners of the vehicles? Then ask for the owners’ information as well. If you’re lucky, there will be witnesses to the car crash. You’ll also want to get their full names and contact information, as they can provide testimonies for your insurance claim or legal case. It’s wise to take pictures of documents when you can. This will prevent you from jotting down the wrong information.

Gather Evidence

It’s in your best interest to get as much evidence as you can while you’re on the scene. Write down the cars’ makes, models, years, license plate numbers, colors, bumper stickers, etc. The more details, the better.

Put your smartphone to good use by snapping pictures and videos of the following:

  • Injuries (you, your passengers, other drivers, and passengers)
  • The vehicles (at all angles)
  • The road
  • Damaged property
  • The sky (if it’s rainy, cloudy, foggy, etc.)

Also, try to find any cameras in the nearby area. If there are doorbell cameras, ask the homeowners if you can get the footage. While the details are fresh in your mind, write down everything you can remember about the collision. This includes information from before, during, and after impact. Key details to include are the date, time, and location, the direction you were driving in, and what the other car(s) were doing.

Drawing diagrams can help too. These can provide additional information that better explains your words.

Inform Your Car Insurance Provider

Next, you should inform your car insurance provider that you’ve been in a car accident. You’ll speak to an agent who will gather information about your crash. With this data, they’ll create a report for you.

It’s important that you speak with your car insurance company ASAP, even if you didn’t cause the accident. If they determine that you didn’t promptly notify them of the accident, they can say that you don’t have coverage. Do note that informing your car insurance company of the crash doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re filing a claim. In fact, it may not be in your favor to file one; speaking to an attorney or insurance agent can help clarify things.

Have the Vehicles Towed

If the accident was bad and the vehicles aren’t drivable, then you should call a tow truck. In some cases, the police will have a tow truck ready for the scene, so you won’t need to use your roadside assistance benefits. Some unscrupulous tow trucks will arrive to try and garner business from you. Before accepting their services, you should hop online and research if they’re reputable.

Get a Medical Exam

Do you feel fine after the auto accident? Don’t skip a medical exam! The adrenaline coursing through your body might be masking pain and other symptoms, and things like whiplash may not rear their ugly heads until much later. It’s in your best interest to book an appointment with your doctor ASAP. They catch injuries and other conditions early on, which can prevent more serious and lasting issues later.

Also, there will be proof that you were responsible and sought medical attention promptly. This will be a huge advantage for insurance claims and other legal actions.

See a Therapist

It’s normal to feel shaken up after a car crash; it’s a traumatic event, after all. The accident itself can be harrowing, and you might be dealing with life-changing injuries.

It’s helpful to speak with a licensed therapist about your mental health issues surrounding the car accident, such as anxiety or depression. You might develop PTSD as well, which requires the assistance of a professional to get you through things.

Keep All Records Regarding the Crash

Keeping records of the actions you’ve taken since the accident is beneficial, even if you’re not going to file a car accident claim. You never know if you’ll change your mind. Plus, these records can be concrete evidence to refute what other parties are saying.

Carefully file away things like auto repair receipts, doctor’s notes, medication receipts, and pay stubs (showing zero pay since you’ve had to take time off to heal). Don’t delete any emails with other parties, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, your employer, etc. You should keep a diary too. Note how your injuries are doing and if they affect your normal activities. This will make your personal injury claim stronger if you can back it up with the disruptions in your life.

Seek a Lawyer’s Help

Are you feeling frustrated with how your legal actions are going? For example, the other driver may be at fault, but their insurance company is offering you an insultingly low amount as compensation. It’s smart to seek a lawyer’s help then. These legal professionals will have years of training and experience, and they’ll know the law like the backs of their hands. They know how to be proactive and assertive too, so they can be your voice.

Do note that you should never sign anything without having your own lawyer look at it first. Once you’ve put your signature on something, you can’t take it back, and it’s very likely that you’ll agree to something that doesn’t work in your favor. You might be worried about the price tag that comes with hiring an attorney, but they have free consultations and many work on a contingency basis. This means you don’t need to pay them any initial fees, and they only get paid if they win your case (the money comes out of the settlement).

If you’re not sure if hiring a lawyer is the correct choice, then this is a great post to read. It can help you determine whether you require legal services.

What to Bring to Your Consultation

Do your research for the best attorneys around, then book a few consultations. This will give you the chance to meet them and determine which is the optimal fit. To ensure they get a decent assessment of your case, bring everything that you’ve gathered. This includes the police report, insurance claim, doctor’s visits, medications, car accident diary, etc.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your concerns. A reputable attorney should be able to respond expertly, without brushing you off. Don’t try to rush things; you should only pick a lawyer you feel completely comfortable with.

Know What to Do After a Car Accident

An auto collision can happen at any time, even if you’re a safe driver. In fact, it can even occur when you’re a passenger!

This means that knowing what to do after a car accident is essential. If you don’t follow the correct steps, then it can compromise your claim or lawsuit. And as a result, you may not get the fair compensation you deserve. So try to remember all the information in this article. And for the best results possible, hire a lawyer to be your advocate.

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