Updated: November 2015
Car accidents are stressful events that can raise dozens of questions at once: Should I call the police? Should I move my car? When should I make a claim?
The following tips can help guide you through the most important decisions you need to make if you've been in an accident.
Immediately following a car accident, consider taking the following actions:
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.
If you're not too hurt to move, check on the well-being of your passengers. If anyone's injured, get on the phone with emergency services or ask a bystander to call for help.
Get to safety if you're able to, either on the side of the road or on 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.
Wait for help. Turn off your engine, turn on your hazard lights and use road flares to warn other vehicles to slow down.
Call the police. 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.
Notify your insurer. You may also want to call your insurance agent while you're at the scene. That way, they can tell you exactly what they will need to process your claim.
In order to protect yourself, the Insurance Information Institute (III) also 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 their accident report.
- Take pictures. Document the accident thoroughly by taking snapshots from different angles, showing the damage done to both cars.
- Take 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.
Once you've filed the report with the police officer, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver before you leave. 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
An accident can leave even the most seasoned driver frazzled, but following these steps may 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.