There are over 6 million car accidents per year in the United States. Odds are, at some point, you’ll find yourself in a fender bender.
If you are in a collision what should you do? If you don’t know, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Most people think you simply exchange information with the other driver and contact your car insurance.
The truth is, there are many things you should do when you get in a car accident, some of which may go against your intuition.
1. Do Not Drive Away
The worst mistake you can ever make during an auto accident is to leave the scene. Not only is it irresponsible, but it is also illegal. This is even truer if you are the person at fault.
Depending on the circumstances, leaving the scene of an accident can end with you being charged with a misdemeanor, or even a felony if there are injuries.
2. Move to the Shoulder, If Possible
After the dust has settled, look around and assess where you’ve ended up, and if you can safely pull over to the should or side of the road to deal with the accident. Leaving your car in the middle of the road can make the accident worse because other cars may accidentally hit your car.
If your car will still start and can still move, then pull over and deal with the following eight steps from the side of the road.
3. Call the Police
Unless someone has merely tapped your bumper, you should always call the police when you have a car accident. This is true for a couple reasons.
First, in accidents where there are injuries or potential conflicts between the drivers, the police serve to diffuse the situation and keep all involved safe.
Second, police are there to document the scene and file police reports. In accidents that occur on public property, such as highways and roads throughout town, the police also find fault and issue citations. This is all noted in the police report that your insurance company looks at when assessing fault.
If the accident occurs on private property, police are likely unable to issue citations or find fault, but they can document the scene and keep all involved safe.
4. Get Out of the Car If You Can Do So Safely
Assess the scene. To handle many of the following steps, you’ll need to exit your car. If you’re stuck in the fast lane on the freeway, wait for emergency services to arrive before you get out.
If you are injured or your car is badly damaged, you likely won’t be able to get out of your car. In those instances, be sure to request an ambulance when you call for the police in the previous step.
Otherwise, exit your vehicle and proceed with the following steps.
5. Take Photos of the Scene
One of the most important things you can do is document the accident as thoroughly as possible. Take many photos of all parts of your car and the other driver’s car. Take photos of the areas in which the accident occurred.
You’ll want to give these photos to your insurance company when they process your claim.
6. Exchange Information — But Limit the Conversation
This can be one of the most difficult parts of this process. After the dust has settled, one of the first thoughts that pops in your mind will likely be whether or not the other driver is okay. They’ll likely wonder the same thing.
When you and the other driver approach each other, try to minimize the conversation. Never ever admit fault, even if you’re 100% sure that the accident was your fault. There may have been other factors at play of which you weren’t aware.
In addition to this, never answer definitively that you aren’t injured. Many injuries take time to show up. While you may feel fine after the accident, you could be in major pain a few days later.
Everything you say to the other party and to the police can be used in the accident report and be given to insurers. It can also be used in a personal injury lawsuit.
Exchange information, but don’t say too much.
7. Write Down Your Recollection of Events
Any kind of trauma can wreak havoc on your memory. It can cause you to remember certain things in intense detail, and other things in fragments. Try to document your recollection of the accident as soon as possible in the event you forget certain aspects.
8. Contact Your Insurance Company
Each state has a specific amount of time in which you can file an insurance claim. To be on the safe side, contact your insurance company as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss the statute of limitations.
Your insurance company will send out a claims adjuster to assess the damage and determine how much the insurance company will pay. You will then be able to take your car for repairs. The sooner you act, the sooner you’ll be back on the road in your car.
Never ever accept an offer to settle the matter privately. The other party may say they’re going to pay for the damage, but many stop paying out or never pay at all, leaving you stuck with the bill.
9. Seek Medical Attention
Even if you feel okay after the accident, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible after the accident. As with everything, you want to make sure you thoroughly document all aspects of the accident.
If you feel pain days after the accident, be sure to see the doctor at that time to determine if the pain is related to the accident.
10. Speak with an Attorney
Accidents are sticky situations, and many end in litigation. Insurance companies are notoriously stingy about paying out when their customers are at fault in an accident. An attorney will make sure that you are getting everything to which you are entitled following an accident.
Learn more about what a personal injury attorney can do for you by contacting an attorney in your area.
If You Are in a Collision What Should You Do? Now You Know!
Following these ten steps is essential in order to properly deal with a car accident. You have to make sure that you protect yourself in every way — physically, mentally, financially, and legally.
Be proactive — print out this list and keep it in your car. The stress of a car accident can easily make you forget all the proper steps. And if a friend calls you to ask, “if you are in a collision what should you do?” send them this list, too!