Accidents are always stressful events, no matter how serious the results. With adrenaline pumping through you, it can be difficult to process what exactly happened during the accident and what to do when the dust has settled. As such, it is extremely important to know how to handle the situation before it occurs.
While the steps you take generally depend on the severity of damage, the most important thing you can do after an accident is try your best to stay calm. Panic can make a bad situation worse. If need be, take a few deep breaths before assessing the situation. If anyone is seriously hurt, call 911 immediately; this is one of those times when seconds can matter.
Even if no one is injured, call the police – especially if there is significant damage to the vehicles. In some states they aren’t required to attend a non-injury accident, but police can help mediate the situation and control traffic if the vehicles are unsafe to move.
If, like 70 percent of accidents, no one is injured, you can consider moving all cars involved to a safe area away from traffic. If the cars cannot be moved, it is advisable to turn on your hazard lights and set up marking flares, cones or a reflective triangle. Keeping other drivers aware of the situation is important for the safety of everyone involved.
You’ll want to exchange information with the other driver at this point, so grab your license and insurance card. The more information you get from them, the better, including their name, phone number, address, insurance company, policy number, driver’s license number and license plate number. If the owner of the car was not driving, get information for the owner as well as the person who was behind the wheel.
Write down the year, make, model and VIN number of the other car and, if you’re feeling up to it, try to jot down any details of the crash itself – your speed, the direction the cars involved were traveling, that sort of information. The insurance company will want to know as much as possible and it’s best to record the details when they are fresh in your mind.
Having a camera is also helpful. In many cases, the closest camera is on your cell phone, but if your phone doesn’t have one or takes poor pictures, keep a disposable camera in your glove box. Taking pictures of the accident site, damage and even insurance information will help process the insurance claim. If there were any witnesses around, get their contact information and a recorded statement.
Accident Report and Insurance Claim
If a police officer is on the scene, he will write up an official accident report for you. If not, you’ll need to file an accident report on your own. If you’ve taken the pictures and grabbed all the information you can, this should be a straightforward process. Make sure that you file it within a few days since many states have limits as to how long you can wait before reporting an accident. You can find the form at the Department of Motor Vehicles’ website.
Also on the to-do list is filing the much-dreaded insurance claim. Needless to say, the sooner you report the accident, the faster the whole process will be finished. Be truthful and as detailed about the accident as possible. It also helps to know the extent of your car insurance coverage before getting into an accident in the first place, so you’re not blindsided by the repair estimates.
Automobile accidents are an unfortunate but are also a nearly inevitable part of driving a car, and they generally add more stress to your already busy life. Being prepared for the worst can make the process easier, ensuring that you get back to the things that matter as quickly as you can.