A car accident is not something you plan for. In fact, it's usually quite the opposite; most drivers do what they can to avoid getting into an accident. Unfortunately for some, accidents are unavoidable. So when they do happen, it's best to be prepared.
What's the first thing you should do after an accident?
After an accident occurs, the first thing you'll want to do is make sure that everyone is safe. Check for injuries, if someone is seriously injured call for help immediately.
Next, secure your location
Is your vehicle in the middle of the road or blocking traffic? If so, can it be moved? Avoid further risk or damage by assessing your surroundings and moving all involved vehicles to a safe location. If there is major damage to a vehicle and it cannot be moved, put your hazard lights on and leave it where it is. Do your best to get out of harm's way.
Do not leave the scene of the accident. Vehicles may need to be moved for safety purposes but it is unlawful to exit the scene before information has been exchanged.
Now, exchange information and document the scene
After securing your location, it will be time to exchange information with the other driver(s). Collect the following information:
- Phone number
- Driver license number
- Insurance information (i.e. company name, policy number, adjuster's name and phone number)
- License plate number
- Make, model, color and year of involved vehicles
Once all the above information has been traded, document the damage and scene of the accident. Take pictures of all vehicles involved, not just your own. Should any issues arise during the claims process, it will benefit you to have proof of all damage that resulted from the accident. Also, take pictures of the scene. Is there an obstruction that caused the accident to happen? Did poor weather conditions contribute? Document everything; you can never have too much information.
Do you need to call the police or file an accident report?
Not every motor vehicle accident will warrant police assistance or an accident report.
Call the police immediately if someone is seriously injured, a driver is intoxicated, you fear for your safety, the other driver flees the scene or major vehicle damage has been done. If you're in an accident but unsure if the police should be called, call them anyway. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
You must file an accident report if:
- Someone has died or is seriously injured
- The accident occurs on a public highway
- Property damage is greater than $500
- A driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Lastly, notify your insurance company
Information has been exchanged, documentation has been taken and now you must file an insurance claim. When talking to your adjuster, don't leave anything out. Give them exact details on how the accident occurred and send them all photo documentation pertaining to the accident.
Call and file your insurance claim immediately following the accident, while the events are still fresh in your head. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to recall exact details - this could end up hurting you in the end.