A car accident can leave you a little bewildered and unsure about what to do next.
But according to the Insurance Information Institute, there are several steps you should take following a car accident to help ensure your safety and the safety of others, and to give your insurance company the necessary information to process your claim. Take some time to review the following tips on what to do after a car accident so that, if you find yourself involved in a collision or other accident, you'll be better prepared to handle the situation.
Perform an on-the-spot health assessment of everyone involved. Start with yourself. Normally, your first instinct may be to throw open your driver's-side door and get out of your car. But before you do this, take stock of your physical condition and ensure you're well enough to get up and walk around. Next, check on your passengers before taking any further steps. If you suspect that anyone's been injured at all, get on your cellphone and dial 911. If you don't have a phone with you, ask a bystander to call for emergency medical services
Get out of the line of danger. Just because your vehicle has come to a rest doesn't mean that you're out of the line of danger. Other vehicles can still be moving in the vicinity. If your car is blocking traffic and is still operational, try to pull to the side of the road. If your car is too damaged, or if you think it might not be safe to operate, get everyone to safety (to the side of the road, the sidewalk or as far as necessary to ensure safety). Turn on your car's hazard lights and set out road flares to alert approaching traffic and prompt them to slow down.
Call the police. Even if the damage to your vehicle is minor and even if nobody's suffered any injuries, it's important to have the police complete an official report—in some states, it's a legal requirement. A police report can also be helpful in filing an auto insurance claim (make sure to ask how you can get a copy).
Document the scene. While you're waiting for the police to arrive, take pictures of the accident scene, all the vehicles involved and, if it makes sense, any injuries; jot down notes so you have a detailed record of what happened. Taking photos can help protect you against the possibility of the other party trying to alter the scene, changing the story of how the accident occurred, or even leaving before the police have arrived.
Exchange insurance information with the other driver. Make note of the following information:
- The names and addresses of everyone involved, not only of the other driver but also of all passengers. Also get the same information for any witnesses to the accident.
- The driver's license number of the other driver.
- The name and contact information (including phone number and address) of the other driver's insurance company. Note any policy numbers found on the driver's proof of insurance card.
- Take down the license plate number, make and model of every car involved in the accident.
- All names and badge numbers for police on the scene. Also note the same information for any emergency services workers present.
An accident can leave even the most seasoned driver frazzled, but following these steps can help protect you against unnecessary worries and will give your insurance company enough detailed information to begin processing your claim as smoothly and as quickly as possible.
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