If you’re involved in a car accident, your actions immediately afterward could have a significant impact on its long-term fallout. Whether it’s a gentle sideswipe or a major rear-end collision, and whether you’re at fault or an innocent party, there will be insurance and possibly legal issues to deal with in the aftermath. Here are the steps you should take immediately after an accident to stop an already bad situation getting even worse.
Check Yourself for Injury
After being involved in a car accident, first and foremost, make sure you sustained no injuries in the crash. Don’t forget, you may be in shock, and your emotions may be running high, so you might not necessarily feel any pain immediately. Before doing anything else, check yourself thoroughly, so that you don’t risk aggravating any unnoticed injuries.
Also, although this is easier said than done, try and stay calm. There could be a lot riding on your actions, so you need to be as measured and in control as possible.
Don’t Leave the Accident Scene
It’s important to note that you should never leave the scene of an accident until given the all clear by the police or other officials. The penalties for a hit and run incident are severe, and you don’t want to leave yourself open to any chance of accusations, however unfair.
Check on Others
Next, check out every other vehicle involved in the accident. Are there any injuries which need urgent attention, or people who are trapped or unconscious? Unless you’ve had first aid training, try not to move anyone unless necessary, but if you can adequately assess the situation, you can then quickly inform the first responders when they arrive.
Inform the Police That You Were Involved In A Car Accident
For anything but the most minor of collisions, it’s best to call the police, and in an accident that involves injury to a person or damage to property, then calling them is essential. Once they arrive and the situation is under control, ask for the names and badge numbers of the leading officers, and also request that someone file an official police report. This report will be vital for any insurance or legal proceedings which follow.
Exchange Details With Other Drivers
Next, swap contact and insurance details with the other drivers and passengers, and take note of the license plates of the vehicles involved. Consider taking a few photographs of the scene with your smartphone, and ask if you can record the details of any witnesses to the accident.
Be Careful What You Say After A Car Accident
You’ll naturally want to talk with the other drivers and witnesses about what’s happened, but be very careful about what you say to them. It may be in your nature to apologize even when the accident wasn’t your fault, to try and calm the situation, but doing this could leave you open to legal liability if taken as an admission of guilt
So, even if your emotions are running high, don’t be angry or aggressive with other drivers; none of this will look good on any official report. Do what you can to stay neutral, polite, and helpful without leaving yourself open to accusations or complaints.
Inform Your Auto Insurance Company
Once the immediate aftermath of the accident has died down, contact your insurers straight away, giving them an outline of what’s happened so that the claim process can begin. Prepare written notes describing the incident as soon as possible, while the details are still fresh in your mind. When filling in a claim form, make sure to be accurate and complete – any attempts to mislead can lead to a claim being denied, or possibly even worse, legal action being taken against you.
Keep Medical Notes
If you require any medical treatment, keep a full written record of which kinds of care you received, which medications you needed to take, how much it all cost, and how the injuries and treatment have impacted your daily life. This last part is vital if you need to make a claim for compensation or damages rather than simply recouping your costs.
Take a Claim Slowly
When making an insurance claim, don’t be tempted to rush things along unless absolutely necessary. You might not know the full consequences of any injuries or mental trauma for weeks or even months, so don’t be tempted to accept an early settlement offer without serious thought.
If you disagree with anything decided by either your insurer or by another driver’s, then consider hiring an attorney with experience in auto accident claims. Most of these attorneys will work on a no-win no-fee basis, so for any accident involving injury to you or another person, it’s worth booking a consultation to explore your options.
Stay Calm and Careful
In the meantime, until all the insurance and legal issues have been fully resolved, continue to take care over what you say about the accident. Try not to discuss it with anyone other than your own insurer, your doctor, and your attorney, and never ever hold conversations with a representative of another driver without advice from an attorney.
The amounts of money involved in an auto accident aftermath can be huge, so you shouldn’t expect everyone concerned to play nice. Knowing what to do immediately after an accident, and in the weeks and months that follow, could stop an unfortunate situation from turning in to a major financial and personal upheaval.
Take Traffic School If You’re Cited
If you received a citation for a non-injury accident, chances are you will qualify for traffic school. Taking a traffic school course can help you reduce fines, points on your driving record, and may help reduce the amount your auto insurance premiums go up.