Do you know what to do after a major car accident?
There are about 17,000 car accidents in the U.S. every day. A serious crash can leave you in shock; not knowing what comes next. But the steps you take after the accident can have a major impact on your life going forward.
Not to worry! We’ve laid out a clear guide on what to do if you’re involved in an accident so you can protect yourself and those around you.
Must Do Things After a Major Car Accident
Stop – Don’t Ever Drive Away from a Major Car Accident
We can’t stress this enough. If you’re in a collision, the first thing you need to do is put the car in park and shut it off. If the accident is significant, you shouldn’t try to pull the car over to the side of the road before assessing the situation.
Leave the cars as they were after impact so you can asses any injuries and damage properly. You can flip your hazard lights on if they’re still working which can be helpful in signaling to other vehicles you’re blocking the road, especially if the accident occurs at night and the area is poorly lit.
Determine if either you or anyone else involved in the accident is injured. If so, you’ll need to call an ambulance right away. The police should be called if the accident is substantial, regardless of injuries, so they can make an official report of the situation which will later be submitted to your insurance company with your claim.
Secure the Scene
Once police or an ambulance is on their way, you can protect the scene by putting up flares or ensuring your flashers are on. It is always good to keep a flashlight in your trunk in case an accident occurs at night and your lights are not operational.
If your car is drivable, and there are no serious injuries or risk of fire within the vehicle, you can move the cars over to the shoulder to avoid blocking traffic. Be sure to wait for police in a safe place, away from any oncoming traffic or dark spots where other drivers passing by won’t see you.
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Record the Situation
When police arrive, they will make an official report of the accident. Be sure to tell them every detail you remember clearly as this information will be submitted to your insurance company, either by you or the other party involved in the collision.
If you are unsure of any details, still in shock or shaken up by the crash and aren’t thinking clearly, be sure to convey that to the officers. Keep in mind that many times injuries from an accident don’t show up until hours or days after the incident so don’t simply say you’re fine if you think you might not be.
Don’t guess on the information you tell the police. This record is permanent and can’t be changed so if you make up a false detail or speculate on something, it will be recorded as such and could become problematic later when dealing with insurance. You’re better off simply saying you don’t know or don’t remember.
Photograph everything. Nothing will be as definitive as visual evidence when it comes to dealing with insurance. If your camera has a cell phone, use that. If not, be sure to carry a disposable camera in your glove compartment or trunk.
Take photos of the damage on both vehicles and of any injuries that are visible but minor enough that the person didn’t need to be taken to the hospital. Be sure not to get in the way of any paramedic or police who are helping with the scene. If you can’t take photos of the scene because things are too chaotic, try to take them afterward if possible.
If you’ve called the police to the scene, the officers will gather the necessary information of each party involved and document it. However, if the police were not called or they were not able to respond to the collision because there were no injuries, you need to exchange information on your own.
This means taking down the make, model and color of the car, their license plate number and insurance information. You should also ask to see their driver’s license to be sure you have their full name on record. If there were witnesses, be sure to get their information as well as if it could be valuable down the road.
If the police were called, they’ll give you the number of their police report which you can later use to track down a copy for yourself.
File an Insurance Claim
Call your insurance to file a claim right away. If you hesitate or delay on reporting the incident, it will flag to your insurance company that something looks suspicious. If other parties were involved in the crash and especially if the police became involved, the exact time and date of the incident will already be on the record.
Learn about what your policy covers given the type of accident you were in and ask your insurance provider what the next steps will be. If you’re injured, ask what your policy covers about seeing doctors right away and if you should be paying out of pocket or if there is a stipend that can be provided to you upfront.
See a Physician
Many neck and back injuries caused by a collision don’t become apparent until days later. If you think there is even a slight chance you’re injured, you should seek medical attention. If you hit your head, are feeling dizzy or out of sorts, you should see a doctor right away as you may have a concussion.
It is common for injuries caused by a crash to get worse as time goes and stick around for a while. This is why it’s so important to have documentation of treatment from a doctor early on. It will help with your insurance claim, receiving money for treatment and can help prevent your injury from becoming worse in the first place.
Keep All Information
Make an accident file either on your computer or a place where you can store hardcopy information like photos or documents sent from your insurance company. It’s important to keep track of all the information, especially if you’re going to be entering into any kind of lawsuit or complicated insurance claim that questions which party is at fault.
Consult an Attorney
Hopefully, this isn’t a necessary step, but you can always consult an attorney if you’re unsure of your rights or having a hard time with your insurance company or the other party involved in the accident. Read more about hiring an attorney; they can help you protect evidence and deal with your insurance company the right way so you are treated fairly and covered the way you should be.
Follow These Steps to Keep Yourself and Others Safe
There is no question that getting into a major car accident is scary. When you’re in shock, it’s easy to question what to do and forget to take important steps to protect yourself and others. These tips will help guide you should find yourself in that situation.
Be sure to check out our other tips and helpful advice on important life situations so you can know things better!