“He called his mom!”
A friend of mine laughed in exasperation as he told me about his 18-year-old son’s car accident earlier that day.
“He didn’t know what to do, so his first instinct was to call my wife! He was still sitting in the car on the highway, with the whoosh of traffic buzzing by. He panicked, so he called his mom! What was she going to do?”
My friend brushed off his son’s real-world ignorance as a laughing matter, mostly because no one was injured in the accident, but it was a dangerous situation. Many drivers like my friend’s son may feel overwhelmed after a car crash and forget what they should do.
Here’s a list of 10 steps that you should take after a car accident.
1. Check whether anyone is hurt.
As a first priority, make sure everyone is safe. Call 911 for medical help if someone needs it. If someone is hurt, do not move them unless the car is on fire. You could make the injury worse, so wait for professional help from an ambulance.
2. Be safe.
If you can still drive your car, move it to the side of the roadway so it doesn’t impede traffic. Choose a well-lit spot if possible. If you can’t drive the car, leave it where it is, but get out safely and move yourself and other passengers as far away from traffic as possible. Turn your hazard lights on and set up flares or reflective emergency triangles to alert other drivers to slow down.
3. Remain at the scene.
It’s against the law to leave the scene of an accident, even if it’s only a minor one.
4. Contact the police.
Several laws explain how to report accidents to the police. Call 911 if someone has been injured in the accident. Even if it’s a minor accident and no one is injured, it’s still a good idea to call the non-emergency police number and report the accident. You may want a police report because it’s important evidence to support any accident-related claim.
5. Be cautious about what you say and who you say it to.
When you speak with the other driver, the police officer, or insurance adjusters (more on them later), be calm and clear-headed. It’s best to limit your interactions with the driver, especially if road rage may have been a factor. Avoid talking about your anger or frustration.
Don’t lay blame or accept blame for the accident. And, even if you think the accident was your fault, don’t say that it was!
Tell the police officer exactly what happened, to the best of your ability. If you don’t know, say that to the police officer, but do not guess or speculate. If asked whether you’re injured, say that you’re unsure as opposed to no. Sometimes injuries manifest hours or days after the collision.
Exchange insurance and basic information with the other driver and any witnesses. Be sure to provide and obtain the following information:
- the other driver’s name and contact information;
- the other driver’s insurance company and policy number;
- the other driver’s license and vehicle registration number;
- the type, color, and model of the other driver’s vehicle; and
- the location of the accident.
6. Document the car accident scene.
Take pictures and videos of the vehicles and the scene of the accident, including property damage, skid marks, street names, and weather and road conditions. Take wide shots and close-ups. If you’re visibly injured, take photos of your injuries as well. Use a voice memo app on your phone to record what happened while it is still fresh in your mind.
7. Call your insurance company.
Notify your insurance company as soon as possible after the car accident. Depending on your policy, you may have roadside assistance, towing services, or car rental coverage to help you after an accident.
8. See your doctor.
If you experience pain or unusual symptoms after an accident, even if it is a few days later, visit your doctor to document and treat any physical harm.
9. Get organized.
Make a file for the accident so you can keep everything related to it in one place. Be sure to keep the police report, bills, and medical records in case you need them for a claim.
10. Be prepared.
Good drivers are prepared for accidents. Carry important vehicle, insurance, emergency, and medical information for yourself and your family in the vehicle. Include an emergency contact number as well as known allergies and the name of your doctor. Your insurance company may also have an app that you could download to your phone.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you make the right choices after a car accident
As you can see, even minor accidents can be serious. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, it’s always a good idea to speak to legal counsel who can advise you about your rights and any claims for compensation. Hunter & Everage is here to help, with experienced personal injury lawyers in Richmond, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.