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What To Do After A Car Accident: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: July 2017

Car accidents can be stressful events that raise dozens of questions at once: Should I call the police? Should I move my car? When should I make a claim?

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the following steps may help guide you through important decisions you need to make if you've been in an accident.

Immediately following a car accident, consider taking the following actions:

  • Step 1: Check yourself for injuries.
  • Step 2: Check on the well-being of your passengers.
  • Step 3: Get to safety.
  • Step 4: Call 911.
  • Step 5: Wait for help.
  • Step 6: Exchange information.
  • Step 7: Document the accident.
  • Step 8: Notify your insurer.
A man and a woman exchanging information after a car accident.

Step 1: Check yourself for injuries.

If you're injured, call 911 or ask someone else to do so. If you're seriously injured, try not to move, and wait for emergency personnel.

Step 2: Check on the well-being of your passengers.

If you're not too hurt to move, check on the other passengers in your car. If anyone's injured, get on the phone with emergency services or ask a bystander to call for help.

Step 3: Get to safety.

If you're able to, move to the side of the road or a sidewalk. If your car is safe to drive and is causing a hazard where it is, pull it to the side of the road. Otherwise, leave it where it is and get yourself to safety.

Step 4: Call 911.

Whether an accident is considered a minor fender-bender or a major collision, calling the police is important — and in some states, it's legally required. The responding officers will fill out an accident report and document the scene. If the police can't come to the scene of the accident, you can go to the nearest police station and complete a report yourself, according to the III.

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Step 5: Wait for help.

Turn off your engine, turn on your hazard lights and use road flares to warn other vehicles to slow down.

Step 6: Exchange information.

After making sure you and any passengers are uninjured, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. According to the III, the most important information includes:

  • Full name and contact information
  • Insurance company and policy number
  • Driver's license and license plate number
  • Type, color and model of vehicle
  • Location of accident

The III recommends that you avoid discussing fault when going over the facts with the other driver.

Step 7: Document the accident.

In order to help protect yourself, the III recommends taking the following steps:

  • Identify the officers. Once the police arrive, get the name and badge number of all responding officers.
  • Get a copy. Ask the police officers present where you can obtain a copy of the accident report.
  • Take pictures. Document the accident thoroughly by taking pictures of your vehicle from different angles, showing the damage done to both cars. It might also be a good idea to take pictures of the other car's license plate.
  • Take down names. Write down the names and addresses of all parties involved, including any passengers in the other vehicle.
  • Talk to witnesses. If there were any witnesses to the accident, take down their names and their contact information, as well.

To help keep all of this documentation in order, you can keep this accident information page in your vehicle.

Step 8: Notify your insurer and start the claims process.

You may want to call your insurance agent while you're at the scene. That way, they can tell you exactly what they will need to in order to process your claim and what to expect during the claims process.

An accident can leave even the most seasoned driver frazzled, but following these steps may help protect you from unnecessary worries. That way, you can work with your insurance company to get your vehicle repaired as smoothly and as quickly as possible.


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This content is for informational purposes only and may not be applicable to all situations.
Coverage subject to terms, conditions, and availability. Policy issuance is subject to qualifications. Allstate Insurance Company, Allstate Indemnity Company, Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL. © 2017 Allstate Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL.
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