An auto accident, whether a major collision or a fender-bender, can be upsetting and very scary. Take a deep breath and realize you can’t undo it, but you can manage a smooth recovery by following these four easy steps.
Protect Yourself and Your Passengers
When the vehicle stops moving, safety should be your first concern. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your passengers:
- Check yourself and your passengers for injuries.
- Call 911 for any needed medical assistance.
- Move your vehicle out of the way of others if it’s still in the road, if possible.
- Be aware of the traffic around you and only exit the vehicle if safe to do so.
- Notify police of the accident.
If your car is not drivable, call for roadside assistance, which may be included as part of your auto insurance policy. Don’t admit fault in the accident or share your policy limits with anyone. Even if the damage is only minor, do not leave the scene of an accident until the police arrive and tell you it is alright to go.
Once you have checked on the safety of your passengers and your vehicle, it’s important to get the information you’ll need to file a detailed auto insurance claim. No need to use pen and paper — you can use your smartphone camera to take photos and videos. Be sure you collect this information from drivers involved in the accident:
- Insurance company
- Policy number
- Driver’s license number
- Make, model and year of the vehicle
- License plate number
If possible, get the name and phone number of any witnesses who were not involved in the accident but saw what happened. You’ll also want to record a video or take a picture of where the accident took place. If you don’t have anything handy to document the accident, write it down or take a mental note.
One great tip is to record everything you can on a notes app or in a text to yourself. Having all this information electronically may help keep track of this very important information as you’re shuffling a lot of things back and forth from your car. You may lose track of a paper but it’s not likely you’ll leave behind your phone or tablet. As you’re documenting things, it’s important to be as specific as possible to answer any questions later on.
Document Any Damages
Documenting your accident is a key step in the claims process and why you need to gather so many details right after an accident. Here are some things that would be helpful to get to fill out a claim and protect you in case of a lawsuit:
- Photos of both vehicles from all angles
- Names of the police officers responding to the accident and the municipality or department for which they work
- Copy of the police report
- Photos of any property damage or skid marks on the road
Having an accident is a stressful situation. In the moment, your adrenaline will likely be pumping so preparing ahead of time by learning what to do after an accident can lower that stress and ensure you get the information you need to make an accurate claim. The more details you provide to your insurer after the accident the better.
File a Claim
It is best to file a claim as soon after the accident as possible while you still remember the details. Accident investigation is also easier when the scene is fresh. If your claim includes all the needed documentation, further investigation might not be necessary. Filing a fast and detailed claim can help streamline the process of getting your car inspected for damage, getting it repaired and arranging for a rental vehicle if necessary.