During 2018 in the United States, over 36,750 people were killed due to traffic crashes. And there are even more car wrecks that involve injuries or just damage to property.
Are you wondering what to do when someone hits your car or you hit another car?
Read on to learn what do if you find yourself at a car accident scene.
Stay Put at the Car Accident Scene
One of the cardinal rules of a car accident scene is to never drive away. You might panic at the thought of a car wreck and be worried about the consequences, especially if you are responsible for a rear-end accident.
But you must never drive away from a car accident scene, even a minor one.
If it safe to do so and your car is drivable, you can pull over into the nearest parking lot, shoulder on the road or side street to avoid congesting traffic.
If your car isn’t drivable, put your four-way indicator on and turn off the car. If it is dark, use road flares from your emergency car kit to warn other vehicles to slow down.
Check for Injuries
Once your car is parked, you need to check for injuries to yourself and your passengers.
If you are hurt or one of your passengers is hurt, call 911. If you are seriously injured, don’t try to move, you could make your injuries worse.
Just wait for paramedics to arrive to help you.
Call the Police
In some states, calling the police for all car crashes, including fender benders, is legally required.
So once you have checked yourself and passengers for injuries, that is the next thing you should do.
Avoid tying up the 911 lines (unless there are injuries) and instead, call your local police department directly.
Officers will come to the scene and fill out an accident report. Sometimes, police officers are unable to come to the scene right away. The officer on the phone will advise you to report to your local PD to report the car crash.
Make sure to get a copy of the police report. You will need it for filing a claim with your car insurance company.
Exchange Information with the Other Driver
Whether you are involved in a minor car crash or a total car wreck, you will need to exchange information with the other drivers involved.
There’s no need to be rude or accusatory. In fact, it’s in your best interest to avoid discussing whose fault it is with the other driver. When vehicles or property are damaged during a car accident, your insurance adjuster will assign fault based on the facts, photographs and the police report.
Just exchange information that you will need to provide to your insurance company.
Write down the full name and contact information of the other driver. Take note of their driver’s license number and plate number.
Get his or her insurance company name and policy number. It’s also a good idea to make note of the make and model of the car and the color.
Also write down the location of the car crash (closest intersection or freeway exit, if possible).
Document the Accident
To give yourself the best possible outcome, you should document as much information as you can.
For example, get the names and badge numbers of police officers that arrive at the scene.
Arrange to get a copy of the police report. A police report is created whether you report an accident at a police department or an officer arrives on the scene.
If possible, take pictures of the damage to your car, the other car or any property. Be thorough and take photos from as many angles as you can.
Take pictures of the location to document weather, time of day and prove the location of the car crash. If you or your passengers have visible injuries, you should take pictures of those.
You should also write down the names of all the people involved. This includes any passenger in your car or in the car of the other driver.
If there are any witnesses, write down their names and contact information as well. You don’t need to take a statement from them or try to get them to tell you who they think is at fault.
Your insurance company will do their own research.
Remember, you must stay out of the way of a police investigation. Always follow the instructions of on-scene police officers.
If you can’t take pictures right away, take some as soon as you can.
How to Report an Accident
Each state has different requirements about when and if you need to report a minor car crash.
Many states require you to report any accident that involves an injury. Some states require drivers to report accidents that result in damage over a certain amount, typically $1,000 or $2,500.
Some states give you 30 days to file a report, others give you five days. Find out the legal requirements in your state.
To report a crashed car, simply report to your local police department. You may be asked to fill in a form or you may verbally answer questions as an officer fills out the form.
Make sure to ask for a copy for your records.
Notify Your Insurance Company
You can call your insurance company at the scene of the collision. Or if you are feeling shocked and disoriented by the experience, you can call your insurance company later that day or the next day.
The good thing about calling your insurance company on the scene is that they can tell you exactly what information they need to process your claim.
There you have it. A step-by-step guide for what to do when you find yourself at a car accident scene.
Remember, even though you may feel frazzled or shook up due to the crash, you need to keep a clear head to get the information you need.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you may need a Kansas City car accident lawyer. Find out why here.
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.