What should I do after a car accident?

What to do after a car accident starts by calling the proper authorities, especially if there you or other drivers are seriously injured. Never leave the scene of an accident without taking the other driver's personal information such as name, address, insurance company, policy number, phone number, insurance contact number, and driver's license number. The most important thing to do after an auto accident is to accurately report the accident to your insurance agent.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2020

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A car accident can be a frightening experience. Whether you were at fault or the other driver was, it is always an unfortunate thing to experience. If you get into a car accident, do you know what to expect or how to handle the aftermath? Whether you are in a minor fender-bender or a total car collision, it’s important to take the necessary protocol so that you can best protect your property and most importantly, yourself from legal action by the other party. Here’s what to know and how to best handle the aftermath of a car accident like a pro.

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The Reality of Driving on the Road

You may have heard it before: there’s a greater chance of getting into a car accident then you may expect, resulting in billions of dollars every year due to personal injury and damage. Resulting in minor cuts and bruises to fatalities, car accidents are common, resulting in driving as being one of the most dangerous parts of your day! Since accidents on the road are so common, it’s important to know how to handle one such as what information to get from the other driver and what steps to take after you leave the scene of the accident. While many drivers just focus on leaving the scene of the accident as fast as possible to call their insurance company, it’s not always the best thing to do. Your safety and the safety of the other drivers and passengers is most important. After getting into a car accident, take a deep breath and try to relax. Slowly get out of the vehicle and come to the assistance of anyone in your car or another car that may need help.

Turn off Your Car and Call for Help

The rule of thumb when involved in a car accident is to call for help. Obviously if you just tapped somebody’s bumper at five mph there’s no need to call 911, but for anything else such as potential whiplash, hitting someone from the rear or the side or of course, totaling your car, it’s imperative to turn to 911 for assistance. If your accident occurred in the middle of the road and you can move your car either by driving it or pushing it manually, do so. Otherwise, get out of your vehicle, take your emergency medical kit and any valuables and call for help. Ask a witness to stay by your side so they can be questioned by police and ask everyone involved if they are ok. Make sure to keep a conversation so that their awareness and levels of emotions stay stable.

Important Information to Jot Down

Never leave the scene of the accident without taking down information about the other driver(s) personal information such as name, address, insurance company, policy number, driver’s phone number, insurance contact number and most importantly, their driver’s license number. If you aren’t feeling well, have a passenger from your car or a witness jot down their information for you.

Report Your Accident

Reporting your accident is the most important thing you will do. By reporting accurately, you will save yourself the headache of potential untrue accusations which commonly occur from drivers to want to maximize their lawsuit or settlement amount.  It’s important that you are aware of your surroundings, such as what street the accident took place on, cross streets, date, time of accident, people involved in accident and any damages that were visible to your vehicle and theirs. The more information you can offer your insurance company when filing your claim, the more control you will have over the final outcome. Whether the accident was your fault or not, it’s important to know the reality of your situation.  People like to take advantage of you when they have an opportunity, so to eliminate unnecessary legal action, report your accident as accurately as possible without leaving any gaps of missing information.

What to Anticipate Days after Your Accident

If you’ve never been in a car accident before, you may not know what to expect. No matter how severe your accident may be, you may experience symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. If your car accident was serious, you are likely to have flashbacks of the accident, experience feelings of fear, anxiety or worry or have trouble sleeping. It’s important to take care of yourself the days following the accident and if you have injuries to the back, shoulders or neck get the proper medical care so that you can heal quickly and safely.

The most important thing to do is stay calm and collective after a car accident and make sure you have all the information needed to pursue a claim. The sad reality is that most drivers have no idea what to do until a car accident happens so call your car insurance company well ahead of getting in an accident and become familiar with the steps you need to take if an accident occurs. Car accidents can be stressful enough and understanding your car insurance coverage and the steps to take in an accident can help alleviate much of that stress if the time ever comes.

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