I Had a Car Accident — Now What?


Car_crash05There are many ways to avoid a car accident, but once one happens it’s important that the right steps are taken. Since it’s difficult to think clearly after an accident, it’s important to know beforehand what to do first and what questions you may need answered. This checklist will help you know what to do in case of a car accident. It is best to review it now and then print it out and keep a copy with you in your car.

 Accident_Checklist.PDF (470 KB)

 Determine the Extent of Damage or Injuries

Stay Calm

The first step is to stay calm. It will probably be the hardest thing to do, but by staying calm you will be in a better position to help others and remember key details that may be important later to your car insurance agent or lawyer. Staying calm will also help you to physically document details.

Emergencies First

Next, before you start any documentation of damages, call 911. Then, see if there is anyone injured that needs help immediately. Also, if you are in an area where it is dangerous to leave your vehicles, you will need to try and move them if possible–otherwise, leave everything as-is for the police officer. Once you make sure that there are no immediate emergencies to tend to, go to your glove box and grab the disposable camera, pen and pad of paper you keep in there for the specific purpose of documenting damages in a car accident or crash. If you don’t already have these items readily available in your car, it’s a good idea to go out and purchase them just to be safe.

Pictures and Written Documentation

Car_crash04Go ahead and start taking pictures as soon as you can before anything gets moved by the police officer or the other driver. After you feel like you have taken plenty of pictures, quickly jot down your remembrance of the accident. If there are any witnesses, get their names and numbers along with a written account of what they saw. You’ll also need to get the names and numbers of everyone involved in the car accident as well as their personal accounts of what happened. Don’t argue with them if you disagree… just try and stay neutral and tell them you just want to make sure everything is documented for insurance purposes.

Cooperate with Police

By this time, the police officer should be there. Cooperate with the police officer fully and always request an accident report. Sometimes doing this much documentation may be uncomfortable for you and the other people involved, but it can be vital in processing insurance claims quickly and/or if you were to get sued due to the car accident.

Here are some additional things to consider when documenting the extent of a car accident’s damage and injuries:

  1. List missing or damaged personal items you kept in your car such as electronics, glasses and contents of your purse or wallet.
  2. Make sure to document how you feel physically, however insignificant. Sometimes a small backache from a car accident can lead to serious back problems just a few days later. Try to document this same medical information about all persons involved in the accident.
  3. Taking pictures of everything is important–pay particular attention to looking for skid marks and other things that were damaged in the car accident such as light poles or trees and document the damage with photographs.
  4. Don’t sign anything unless you are fully aware of what you are agreeing to. If you don’t understand what you are asked to sign, by anyone, it is best to contact a car accident lawyer to help you. Also, only discuss the details of the car accident with the attending police officer and do not admit guilt. The specific details are all that is needed–the insurance companies and/or lawyers will determine who is responsible for the damages.

Try to stay calm. Panic can make others panic and the situation worse.

There needs to be a calm person to determine the extent of damage and whether there are any injuries that need immediate medical attention.

File a Car Accident Report with the Police

Even in a minor accident, it is important to make sure there is a legal accident report. Do not leave the scene until the police file a full report.

Discuss the Car Accident Only with the Police

With everyone all shaken up, it can be hard not to talk about what just happened, but that can also lead to you not thinking clearly and accurately about the accident. It is important to limit your discussion of the accident and not to admit any fault or liability. You should talk about the accident with the police and your insurance agent only.

Get the Facts

This is the part most people know to do, but often forget to after the accident for one reason or another. It is important to get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone involved in the accident. A description of the car and license plate number can also be helpful, but make sure you also get the name of their insurance company and the vehicle identification number of their car. Don’t just assume the license plate number will do because most insurance companies only record the type of car and the vehicle identification number, not the license plate number.

Call Your Insurance Company

Call your insurance company’s 800-number immediately, even at the scene with the police if possible. Sometimes the police officer can give your insurance company more accurate information rather than information you may not be recording properly because you are upset by the accident. This can save you a lot of time later when you are waiting for your claim to be processed.

If you have additional questions about car insurance or the proper steps to take following a car accident, please contact an Insurance Town & Country specialist today
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