Each year, over 6 million accidents occur on American roads. The NHTSA estimates that one in three of these accidents involves injuries to the driver and passengers with only about 2% ending up in fatalities.
When an accident occurs, chances are that you and any other parties involved will be too shaken up to think about protecting yourselves and your interests.
You can prepare in advance by reading up on how to stay prepared and the steps to take in case you are involved in an accident.
Stop and Determine Whether There Are Injured People
Whether you are involved in a minor fender bender or a crash involving multiple vehicles, never drive away from the scene of the accident. Your priority should be to determine whether anyone is hurt and get medical assistance where necessary.
Pull your car over to a safe, well-lit spot where first responders can see you and the other people involved in the crash. Ensure your car does not cause a road hazard by alerting oncoming drivers of the crash.
You can also secure the scene of the accident using flares or switching on your flashers. In case of poor lighting or your lights fail to work as a result of the accident, use a flashlight.
Secure Any Children, Adults, or Pets Involved in The Crash
When an accident occurs, the scene can be distracting and confusing causing you to make mistakes that might lead to additional injury. If you are involved in a minor collision, do not leave children, pets, or non-ambulatory adults in the car.
For major accidents, do not attempt to remove passengers including children who are still strapped into their seats. They may have internal injuries that could get worse with movement.
Wait for first responders who are equipped to assess passengers for any injuries and carefully handle extraction without causing further damage.
Contact an Ambulance or The Police
Once you are sure that your car is safely out of the way from oncoming traffic, check for any injured passengers. If there are injuries, even minor scrapes, and bruises, call an ambulance or fire and rescue for medical help.
Ensure that you get medical assistance for yourself and your passengers especially if they are children, disabled, elderly, or otherwise incapacitated.
If you do not know your exact location, ask someone nearby to tell you where you are so you can give 911 your exact location for faster assistance.
You may have to provide other details such as your name, the street you are on, traffic signs, road signals or buildings closest to you.
Note the name and badge number of the officer who attends to you when they arrive and get their contact information. Be sure to get a copy of the accident report from the officer at the scene or from a law enforcement office in case the police do not come.
You can also get a copy of the accident report from the insurance adjuster responsible for handling your claim.
Document The Accident by Taking Pictures or Videos
If you have a cell phone or camera, take pictures of the cars involved in the accident. Record the color, number plate, make, and model of the vehicles involved as well as the time and date of the crash.
You should also document:
- The weather conditions
- Road quality
- Damage caused to the vehicles
- Any injured drivers, passengers, or pedestrians
- Names and contact information of witnesses
- Positions of the vehicles
If there are no other drivers involved in the collision, for instance if you drove into a parked vehicle or damaged private property, leave your information on a note where it is easily visible.
Fleeing the site of an accident without leaving your information could result in serious consequences if you are seen by CCTV cameras or witnesses.
Once you determine whether it is safe to talk to the other driver without the help of the police, use extra caution as you approach them. Typically, a police officer should be present to help you obtain insurance information.
However, if for any reason the police do not come to the site of the collision, secure your valuables before exiting the car. Ask the other driver for information such as:
- Their name
- Contact Information
- Number of passengers in the vehicle
- Insurance information
- Driver’s license
- License plate number
Do not make any admissions, apologize, or express your anger towards the other drivers involved. If any of the drivers appear angry, exercise extra caution, and avoid discussions about who caused the accident.
Do not discuss potential injuries or make statements that determine the extent of the injuries on you or your passengers. Answer any questions about injuries with general statements such as, “We will wait for the doctors to assess and determine the extent of our injuries.”
Get the names and contact details of any witnesses as your attorney or insurance company may need their testimonies to confirm details of the collision.
Remember, do not admit liability even if you believe that you caused the accident. Any words you say at the scene of the crash can be used against you in a your car accident claim.
Notify Your Insurance Provider
Do not be tempted to negotiate a cash deal. A car accident can leave you liable for other damages that went unnoticed during negotiations. It is best to call your insurance company to assess the total cost of repairs.
We do not recommend leaving the site of the collision without a police report to ensure that you are covered in case of any deductibles. Some insurers allow you to use a mobile app to report your claim. The insurer may also direct you to a certified body shop to determine the extent of the damage.
Watch out for Crash for Cash fraudsters who deliberately cause collisions and make exaggerated claims to maximize their gains.
Protect Your Rights After a Car Accident
A minor collision can leave the most experienced driver confused. However, following these steps can help you protect your rights and prepare for any long-term effects.
You can also reach out to an attorney to ensure you receive the right legal advice after an accident.
If you are involved in a serious accident, keep detailed records of any medical treatment and vehicle repair work after the accident.