We hear and say the words “drive safe!” all the time. After a car accident, though, you’re bound to feel disoriented. It’s difficult to know what to do in an accident, let alone what to say.
Approximately six million car accidents occur in the U.S. every year. Despite that number, many people don’t know what to do after a motor vehicle accident.
With this 10-step guide, you can react and respond with a clear head. Keep reading.
1. Pull Over
First things first: get out of the line of traffic. Turn your hazard lights on and, if possible, pull your car to the side of the road.
Make sure your car is safe to drive first. Otherwise, leave it where it is and prioritize getting yourself to safety.
In many cases, it’s best to wait for the police to arrive before moving anything.
Make sure you stay at the scene.
Leaving, especially if someone was killed or sustained injuries, can put you at risk. You might even face criminal penalties as a hit-and-run driver. Instead of high-tailing it, stay put.
2. Determine Damages
Don’t worry about assessing property damages just yet. Instead, make sure anyone involved in the accident is okay.
Call for medical attention if anyone needs it.
If anyone involved in the accident has neck or back pain or is unconscious, don’t move them. Instead, let a qualified medical professional assess the situation first.
Sometimes a hazard will require you to move the person. Try to stabilize their neck or back beforehand.
3. Contact the Police
Even after a minor car accident, it’s important to call the police. A legal accident report can cover your bases after a motor vehicle accident.
In some cases, the state requires you to report an accident. However, these laws vary from state to state.
You could be cited if you don’t report the accident, so it’s best to call the police.
When the cops arrive, make sure they file a police report. This is essential if there are any property damages, physical injuries, or deaths. Obtain names and badge numbers for your records when the police arrive at the scene.
4. Limit Conversation
While you wait for the police to arrive, limit conversation with the other drivers involved in the car accident.
Never admit responsibility.
Make sure you don’t offer your opinion, either. If someone asks if you’re okay, remain cautious about discussing your injuries. Respond by saying only a doctor can assess your health.
5. Get the Facts
Instead of making small talk, get the necessary information you need after the motor vehicle accident.
Start with drivers’:
- Drivers’ license numbers
- License plate numbers
- Basic insurance information
Take down a vehicle description (make, model, year) as well. You can also make a record of:
- The date and time of the accident
- The address of the accident
- The road you were on
- The nearest cross street
- The direction you and the other car were traveling
- Driving conditions, weather, visibility
- What happened
It’s easy to forget details after a motor vehicle accident. Taking notes can help you keep an accurate record.
Try to be cordial and cooperative while you’re talking to anyone on the scene.
If there are witnesses, get their contact information, too.
6. Take Pics
Take photos to help you maintain a clear record. Your insurance company might also require these photos when you’re submitting a claim.
These photos can include images of:
- How/where the cars are positioned
- Where on the street the accident occurred
- Signs of any crossroads
- Property damage
If the other party asks for a photo of your driver’s license, remain cautious. Though you’ll need to offer basic contact information, you don’t want to risk identity theft.
7. Contact Your Insurance Company
Call your insurance company’s emergency claims numbers. It’s beneficial to make this call while you’re still at the scene of the motor vehicle accident.
In some cases, the police officers at the scene can give your insurance company more accurate information.
If you’re frazzled or upset, the officer can also give your insurance company clearer responses.
8. File a Car Accident Claim
Your insurance agent can walk you through how to file a claim after your car accident. Some insurance companies also have a smartphone app. You can use the app to start the claims process while you’re at the scene.
Your job at this point is to collect the facts.
Remember, it’s important not to admit fault. If the other party suggests you handle things without insurance, collect their information. Don’t commit to anything.
Many states require you to report a crash. You can contact your insurance representative to ask about your state’s specific laws.
You can also talk to your car accident lawyer to determine your car accident claim value.
9. Track All Treatment
According to this report, nearly 1.25 million people die in road crashes every year. Meanwhile, 20 to 50 million are injured or disabled.
Take a record of anyone you receive treatment from, including:
- Physical therapists
- Emergency room physicians
- Other medical professionals
Keep a detailed record of any medications or treatments you receive, too. Afterward, request copies of your medical bills and reports. That way, you can provide medical expenses later on.
If injuries impact your daily life (such as causing you to miss work), keep a record of that, too.
10. Hire an Attorney
An experienced attorney can also help you navigate the situation after a motor vehicle accident. They can also maximize your recovery.
If you’re at fault, an experienced attorney will also help you defend yourself.
Look for an accident lawyer with the experience and qualifications to handle your case. That way, you have access to their knowledge and resources throughout the process.
Know What to Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident
After an accident, you’re bound to feel a little frazzled.
With this 10-step guide, you can navigate the road ahead after a motor vehicle accident. These steps can help you protect yourself from unnecessary worries moving forward.
Have you been in a motor vehicle accident recently? Tell us your story; we’re here to help!
Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.