Being in a car accident can be a nerve-wracking and dangerous experience. As of the last census, there were over 45,000 accident related deaths in the United States on a yearly basis.
Learning what to do when a car accident happens can help you be better prepared:
- See if there have been any injuries
The first step that should be handled after a car accident occurs is to check for any injuries. Start by inspecting yourself and the others around you. Keep in mind that shock can stop the body from feeling serious pain temporarily in some cases, so check all over to make sure you don’t have injuries. If you do have injuries, or you notice another driver involved does, get emergency medical services to the accident site as soon as possible.
- Get your vehicle off the main road
If there are no injuries following the car accident, get your vehicle off the main road. An accident occurring on a highway or frequently traveled road can pose a danger to other drivers as they attempt to go around the accident. Assuming your vehicle is in working order, pull it over to the shoulder of the road or the closest similar area. If the vehicle is totaled, you may need to have your vehicle towed so that the flow of traffic can continue.
- Give 911 a call
Calling the police if there are injuries during a car accident is a must. However, if there are no injuries then contacting the police can be something of a gray area. It’s best to still call the police to report the accident, even if there wasn’t extensive damage to the vehicles. Depending on where you are, police may not be dispatched to respond if the accident was minor. Should an officer show up, give them your personal information and inform them of what occurred.
- Put on your hazards or use road flares if you have them
The side effects of a car accident can be other accidents occuring due to drivers rubbernecking, the cause of 1/5th of all accidents, or not seeing the slowdown from your accident. When a car accident happens, put your hazards on and pull over immediately. If you are unable to move your car out of the road and you have an emergency vehicle kit, lay down flares to alert other cars to the wreck.
- Trade information with anyone else involved
In general, it’s best not to discuss details of the accident with the other driver. Emotions may be running high depending on what happened and it’s best to avoid a confrontation. Simply trade insurance information with them and get personal information such as a photo of their licenses.
You will need their information to submit your insurance claim and have the best shot at getting financial compensation. If a police officer does not show up then the responsibility for getting this information falls completely to you.
- Take photos of the scene and any damage
Take photos of the damage to vehicles resulting from the accident right after it occurs, rather than waiting until you get home. If you wait, the other driver could attempt to argue that you inflicted the damage yourself after the fact. To avoid this, take photos of your vehicle, and the other vehicle, from all angles.
- Call a tow truck if necessary
Assuming your vehicle is inoperable, you will need to call a tow truck to get it out of the road. A large number of people have motor club memberships that means a tow truck can be called for now cost at all. The police may also be able to call the tow truck company if they show up at the site of the accident.
- Notify your insurance company
After some car accidents, another driver may attempt to resolve the issue with cash right then and there. This should always be avoided as you could later be held liable for damages by their insurance company. The minute an accident occurs and all information is exchanged, you should reach out to your insurance company and tell them what happened.
Some drivers attempt to use cash if they don’t have strong insurance and know that your vehicle’s repairs will be costly if assessed. However, this is exactly why you should always let your insurance company handle the process.
- Notify the DMV if necessary
Depending on where you are, notifying the DMV that an accident occurred may be required. The criteria for reporting an accident to the DMV changes on a state-by-state basis, and is usually determined based on if there were any injuries and the overall repair cost.
For example, in California, reporting an accident to the DMV is required if the damage is over $1,000 or if anybody is injured, no matter how minor that injury might be. If you do not report the incident, your ability to drive may be revoked.
- Visit a doctor
While you may feel completely fine after a car accident, it’s always best to take a trip to the doctor’s office to ensure nothing is amiss. Just because you don’t see any injuries on your body with the naked eye doesn’t mean there aren’t injuries. In a strong enough accident, internal bleeding or other internal injuries could occur that don’t show any symptoms until it’s too late.
Protect yourself and others after an accident
When a car accident occurs, the first thing you should do is inspect yourself and your passengers for injuries. This will help determine if you need to reach out to emergency medical services. Assuming everyone is fine, you can turn your attention towards exchanging information with the other driver and the more administrative tasks involved with a car accident.
Remember that you may need to report the incident to the DMV depending on the severity of the incident. Stay safe on the road by being prepared for an accident and taking action right when one occurs.