Car Accidents

Your Complete Guide to What to Do After a Car Accident

Make sure you’re prepared—even if the accident was not your fault.

If you’ve recently been in a car accident, you’re not alone: Every year about 4.4 million people in the US suffer injuries as a result of an auto accident—injuries serious enough to require medical attention.

It’s a shock for everyone, regardless of who was at fault and who was driving. That’s why it’s imperative to have a plan in order to take the next steps immediately following an accident. This can make a world of difference if you have to file a claim further down the road.

Read on to find out what to do after a car accident.

Stay where you are

Never drive away from a car accident, no matter what. Even if you are in shock or scared. Even if it was a minor accident. Even if you weren't at fault (and especially if you were).

If you or any of your passengers suffer even a minor injury, call 911 or ask someone else to do this for you. If you think you might have a serious injury, it’s best to try and not move. Wait for the emergency services to reach you.

If you feel well enough to move about, check on all of the other passengers in your car.

If your car is safe to drive and might be causing a hazard where it is, pull it over to the side of the road. If there is too much damage, leave it where it is and get yourself and your passengers to safety, away from traffic.

Call for help

After you’ve ensured everyone’s safety, call 911. This will alert not only the police to arrive on the scene, but also an ambulance or fire rescue team to assist and treat people injured in the accident. In some states, this is a legal requirement.

Additionally, even if you are 100% sure that the car accident is not your fault, it’s important that the responding officers create and file an accident report.

If the police are unable to make it to the scene, go to the closest police station and file an accident report yourself. Later on, when filing a claim with your insurer, you may need to provide a copy of the police report to help with the car accident claim.

Document as much as you can

Along with your police report, you will need as much evidence as possible from the scene.

Unless you need medical attention, use the camera on your phone to take photos and videos of the scene, damage to the car, and any injuries.

If the police arrive to the scene of the accident, explain clearly and briefly what happened. DO NOT speculate about fault! (This is important!). Be sure to ask how you can obtain a copy of their report.

If the officers ask whether you have suffered an injury, you may feel unsure. If so, say you’re not certain, rather than simply saying ‘No.’ Sometimes the shock of an accident can mask any pain and symptoms can develop later. You might not even realize that you have suffered an injury until much later.

Gather important information

The investigating police officers will gather information about the drivers, passengers, and even pedestrians, if they were involved with or witnessed the accident. It’s very helpful that you get the details of the driver and passengers in the other vehicle(s) as well. This includes making a note of:

  • Names and contact information, such as addresses, phone numbers and emails
  • The insurance company and policy number of the other driver(s)
  • The driver’s license and license plate, make, model, and color of the other vehicle(s)
  • The exact location of the accident

You should also check if there were any passing witnesses. If so, collect their contact information too. This can be very useful for a car accident claim.

Contact your insurance company

Once you have collected as much evidence as possible, you should talk to your insurance company.

Some insurance policies require that you report any accidents right away. Read the terms and conditions of your policy—not just when you first take it out, but every now and then so that you will know exactly what to do in an accident.

Insurance agents receive training that helps them to deal with these kinds of situations. They will be able to tell you what you need to do in order to process a claim.

Talk to an attorney about your car accident claim

Put all your accident-related documents and reports together so that they’re easily accessible for your claim.

One of the most important things to do after an auto accident is to consult an attorney. They are there to protect your rights and make sure that valuable evidence is collected and used properly. They will guide you through the car accident claim process.

Seek the advice of an attorney before making any statements—whether to the police, the other drivers and passengers, or even witnesses. An attorney will advise you on issues such as how to ensure you get the compensation you deserve given the injuries and damage related to the accident.