Car accidents never happen at a convenient time. When they do happen, you can sometimes be so overwhelmed that you forget the steps that must be taken.
We have gathered 10 things that you MUST do immediately after getting into a car accident and even created a printable that you can place inside your vehicle.
1. Stay Calm
- Stay at the scene. If you're able to, and it's safe to do so, put your hazard lights on, turn the vehicle off, and get out of your vehicle and go to the side of the road.
2. Call 911
- Do not attempt to move the injured. Instead, if you're able to, call 911 to both notify the police and to receive needed medical attention from trained professionals.
- Notifying the police right away and while everyone is still on the scene is an important step to take because the police are trained to document the crash and to take statements from those involved.
- This is critical information when it comes time to figure out what actually happened.
3. Gather Information
- Get information from the other driver(s). Note their name(s), address(es), phone number(s), and drivers license number(s) as well as their insurance carrier(s) and policy number(s).
- Get information from the police officer(s). Note their name(s), badge number(s), and write down the police report number.
- Get information from any witness(es). Note their name(s) and contact information--do this quickly as many witnesses will leave after making sure everyone is "okay."
4. Take Pictures
- If you can, and if it's safe, take pictures of everything.
- Pictures of the damage and position of the vehicles before they are moved can be very important. If you are not able to take pictures, ask a passenger or independent witness to do it for you. But again, this should only be done if they can do so safely.
- After you get home, take pictures of your injuries as well, including any bruises, cuts, or bandages/casts.
- Back up these pictures so they are protected in case something happens to the originals.
5. Do NOT Discuss Fault
- Don't make any statements or say anything that could be taken as an admission of fault, even if you were at fault, or think you may have been at fault. Emotions are running high at the scene of a car accident and you may need time to process the information.
- If the other driver admits fault, don't discuss it as it may lead to an argument.
- You should however speak honestly with police officers and your OWN insurance company describing exactly what happened.
6. Take Notes
- As soon as you are able to, write down everything you remember. Document what happened, the road conditions, what was said afterward, whether any citations were issued and what injuries, if any, were sustained by those involved.
- Put these notes, along with all the information you gathered, in a folder so you can keep everything in the same place. Draw a sketch or diagram of the crash scene. It may be months or years before the crash is fully resolved.
7. Notify YOUR Insurance Agent
- All insurance policies require that you notify your insurance company that you were involved in a crash. Do this soon, the day of or the following day, or on Monday if the crash happened on the weekend.
8. Document and Save Everything Related to the Accident
- Over the next several days and weeks you will likely make several phone calls and/or exchange several e-mails.
- Document everything taking note of who said what and the dates and times it was said.
- Remember to not discuss fault with anyone--especially the other person(s) insurance representatives.
- Take notes on any medical care you receive including dates and doctor's names and the care you received.
9. Call a Personal Injury Attorney
- You need to protect your rights.
- Personal injury attorneys dedicate their professional lives to working against insurance companies and protecting the rights of injured victims.
- An attorney who focuses his or her practice in personal injury law is best able to evaluate what needs to be done to get you fully compensated and best protect your interests.
- Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations.
10. Be Aware, Do NOT Overshare Information
- Everything you do and everything you say (including what is said/posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) can come back to haunt you later--even if you think it was said in confidence or posted on a private social media account.
- If you really feel the need to post things, keep your posts honest and factual, avoid embellishing or being flippant or flowery in your crash-related posts.
Things to be Aware Of
- It's important to not let anyone steer you to say something that didn't happen, or that you didn't mean.
- This is especially common when the other persons(s) insurance agent(s) contact you to get your version of the story.
- If you don't get medical attention on the scene of the accident, or you aren't taken away by ambulance, go to the doctor the same day of the accident so they can evaluate your injuries.
- If you wait too long, it could be argued that you had preexisting injuries before the accident and therefore you may potentially lose a settlement claim you may be entitled to.