It can be difficult to think clearly when you get into a car accident. The sudden rush of fear and excitement cloud your thinking and make it hard to make good decisions. Having a checklist on-hand to help guide you is a very simple way to help make a bad situation better.
Whether you’re involved in a major wreck or a minor fender-bender, the general process for responding to an accident is the same. In all cases, it’s important that you think clearly and treat the other people involved in the accident politely and with respect. Everyone involved is going to be upset, yelling and getting angry won’t help anyone.
Check for Injuries
The first thing you should do immediately after an accident is check yourself for injuries. If you are hurt, it’s ok to call 911 and stay put until help arrives. If you and any passengers with you are ok, check to see if it’s safe to get out of the car and go check on the other people involved in the accident.
It’s important to note that there are legal and moral factors to consider if one of the other people involved in the accident needs medical help. There are more situations and scenarios than could possibly be listed in any book. There is no substitute or life-hack for critical thinking and good decision making.
Generally speaking, the only reason you should render aid to other people involved in the accident is if the person asks for help or if the person is unconscious and you determine that their injuries are life-threatening and failure to assist would result in a loss of life or limb.
In any situation, if someone is injured, you should call 911 immediately.
Secure the Scene
After you’ve assessed any personal injury resulting from the accident, you need to make sure that the scene is safe. The first and simplest step is to activate your hazard lights. If your vehicle can move and is blocking traffic, move it safely out of the way onto the shoulder of the road and set up any warning signals. If your car is unable to move, safely set up any warning signals to alert other vehicles to the hazard.
Whatever condition your vehicle is in, the goal here is to ensure your safety and the safety of the people around you.
You’ll need to be able to tell the 911 operator where the accident occurred, how many cars and people were involved, and if there are any injuries.
Other drivers may try to convince you that it’s unnecessary to call 911. If the property damage caused by the accident exceeds a dollar value threshold set by the state, you are committing a crime by failing to report the accident. If you choose not to call 911, you expose yourself to the possibility of prosecution for hit and run or fleeing the scene of an accident.
When officers arrive on the scene, be sure to follow their instructions. The officer will talk with everyone involved in the accident and document the scene. Continue being polite and helpful while the officer processes the scene. Once the officer has completely processed the scene, you should expect to get a police report of the incident. Be sure to keep this as you will need it when filing your insurance claim.
Document the Scene
Documenting the scene of the accident is critical. Police officers will do this as a part of their response, but it’s still a good idea for you to do it as well incase any disputes arise. Be sure to follow the officer’s instructions if they contradict any guidance given here.
It’s appropriate to exchange the following information with the other drivers:
The following information should not be shared with or requested from the other drivers:
Take as many pictures as you can. Focus on taking pictures of the following:
You should also document in writing or record on video the following:
Recover the Vehicle
At this point, the police should be on site and in the final stages of processing the scene. If your vehicle can still drive safely, you’ll likely be advised to drive it home. If your vehicle is too damaged to drive off safely, you’ll need to call a tow truck.
If you do need to call a tow truck, be sure to contact your insurance agency first as most agencies will provide you with the contact information for a tow truck company that they work with.
Contact Your Insurance Agent
After you’ve arranged for your vehicle to be recovered, it’s time to contact your insurance agent if you haven’t already done so. You’ll be asked to provide the information that you collected when documenting the scene along with the police report number.
Most agencies will ask you to submit pictures of your vehicle. Depending on the value of your vehicle and the damage resulting from the accident, you may be asked to have an assessor evaluate the damage to determine if the car is a total loss or if it can be repaired.