Auto accidents are never fun, but they can be much more stressful and scary if you aren’t prepared. Fortunately, you’re reading this article right now, so you’ll know how to keep your head (and your cool) if and when the unexpected happens.
Before the Accident
Let’s face it: You never know when you’ll be in a car crash. That’s why it’s a good idea to have reliable auto insurance. The right auto insurance plan can help cover you in the event that you or others are injured in a car wreck, as well as help pay for damaged property.
Not only is getting car insurance coverage a smart move on your part, it’s the law in all 50 United States.
In addition to your insurance information, you should also have the following with you in your car:
- Your driver’s license
- Your vehicle’s registration
- An emergency kit
At the Scene
A car crash can leave you feeling a little flustered or confused, so here’s a step-by-step rundown of what you should do.
Step 1: Remain calm
The last thing you need in a car crash is to have a panic attack or lose your temper. If you’re able to, close your eyes and take a couple of deep calming breaths before you do anything else.
Pro tip: If another person involved in the accident gets angry and starts threatening you or others, call the police immediately.
Step 2: Move somewhere safe
If you’re not seriously injured, and if your vehicle is still driveable, try to move it out of traffic to a nearby safe location, such as the shoulder of the road. If your car isn’t driveable, turn on your hazard lights to let cars behind you know you’re not going anywhere any time soon.
Once you’ve moved your car out of the way, check that it’s safe to exit your vehicle. Put it in park, turn off the engine, and then step out of your car. If it’s dark outside, it may be a good idea to set up some emergency road flares to warn other drivers there’s been an accident.
Pro tip: Don’t drive too far away from the location of the accident. Leaving the scene of an auto accident before you contact the police is considered a “hit-and-run” in most states, which is a punishable crime, even if no one is injured.
Step 3: Make sure everyone’s OK
Next, check to see if anyone else involved in the accident has been injured, including other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians. Call 911 right away if it seems someone has been hurt in any way. Likewise, call 911 if anyone seems unresponsive or unsure whether they’re all right.
Pro tip: It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Even something seemingly small, such as dizziness, a stiff neck, or a headache, may require immediate medical attention.
Step 4: Call the police
No matter how small the accident may seem, you need to contact the police as soon as possible. The police will tell you whether you need to wait there at the scene until they arrive. If an officer arrives at the scene, they’ll have you fill out an accident report, which will be very helpful later on when you file your insurance claim.
Don’t admit fault or blame anyone else for the accident. Let the police officer judge for themselves. Ask them for a copy of the accident report, as well as their name and badge number, just in case.
Pro tip: There’s a chance the police won’t be able to make it to the scene of the accident. If this is the case, you can usually fill out an accident report through your state’s department of motor vehicles or a similar agency.
Step 5: Exchange insurance info
To help you file an insurance claim later, you’ll want to get the following information from all other drivers and passengers involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses to the accident:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Make and model of car
- License plate number
- Insurance carrier and policy number
Pro tip: Once again, be civil, but don’t admit fault or apologize for the accident to anyone other than your insurance provider.
Step 6: Take lots of pictures and notes
You may think you’ll remember everything that happened during the accident later, but you might be surprised. If you’re able to, snap some photos of the accident scene, including any damage done to your car or other drivers’ cars.
If you have a pen or pencil and paper (it’s a good idea to have some ready in your glove compartment), write down every detail you can about the accident and everything leading up to it. Or you can simply use your smartphone to take notes.
Pro tip: Consider keeping a disposable camera in your glove box, just in case your smartphone is damaged during an accident.
After the Accident
Once you’ve finished talking to the police and they’ve given you permission to leave the scene, go ahead and call a tow truck if you need one. Then, get a ride back home from a friend, family member, or from a rideshare service.
Once you’re home safe and sound, you can take care of some other important things:
Step 1: File your claim
Call your insurance provider and tell them you’d like to file an insurance claim. A claims handler will ask you some questions about the incident (this is where you can use all the info you collected earlier at the scene) and let you know what your next steps are.
Step 2: Visit your doctor
We cannot stress enough how important this is. If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort after the accident at all, you need to see your doctor as soon as possible. Even if they don’t seem like a big deal, your symptoms may be a sign of something more serious.
Pro tip: If you’re diagnosed with an injury or condition that was caused by the accident, you’ll want to let your insurance claim handler know right away.
Step 3: Get your repairs done
If your car insurance provider determines the cost of repairs for your vehicle are covered by your policy, a claims handler will contact you with information about repair shops near you that they recommend.
Select the repair shop you want, and then take your vehicle (or have it towed) there. Typically, all you’ll have to pay is your deductible. Your insurance carrier will take care of the rest.
Pro tip: While you can take your car to any auto body or repair shop you want, it’s usually best to select from among the choices your auto insurance provider recommends. This is because your insurance company has made agreements with specific shops to offer repair services at a set rate.
The Best Way to Avoid an Accident
There’s no way to guarantee you’ll never be in an auto accident, but you can help avoid getting in one by being a safe and conscientious driver, by obeying all traffic laws, and by never driving tired, distracted, or under the influence of drugs.