Accidents happen, even to careful drivers. After a car accident, you might be stunned with shock, dizzy with adrenaline or enraged at the guy who ran a red light.
The first thing to do after you’ve been in a car accident? Stay calm. The post-accident process is fairly straightforward, but it’s not always easy. Keeping a cool head will help you document the wreck more thoroughly and accurately.
Use the tips below to prepare yourself to handle the stressful aftermath of an auto accident and to make the claims process — if there is one — more efficient and effective.
1. Check for injuries
After the car accident, immediately determine whether anyone is injured. If so, call 911 to get an ambulance and police on the scene. Even if the incident was minor and everyone is cooperative, consider calling the police. That way you’ll have an official report to give to your insurance company.
2. Move to a safer area
If the vehicles involved are still operational, get them to the shoulder or off the main road. Make sure to pull completely off the road to avoid being hit by approaching vehicles. If you have flares or reflective emergency triangles, set them up to warn other cars. If there appears to be a danger of explosion, get everyone out of the way.
3. Exchange information and document the crash
State laws vary on how much information you’re expected to give at the scene of an accident. Generally, you need to provide only your name and your insurance information to any other drivers involved. While you might want to hash out the details of the crash with the other driver, it’s best to limit your interaction so you don’t admit guilt or blame the other person.
Still, you’ll want to get as much information as you can, including:
- Name and insurance information of the other driver.
- The other driver’s telephone number, if they are willing to provide it.
- Witness contact information.
- Photos of any damage.
- Police report number.
- Police officer’s name and telephone number.
- Personal notes on what happened during the incident.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers WreckCheck, a free app that records the time of the accident, lets you create written and audio details, and emails everything to you or your agent. In addition, several car insurance companies offer free smartphone apps to help you document the details of the crash.
Don’t have a smartphone app, but have a pen and paper handy? Draw a diagram of the scene and make notes about how the accident occurred, including the direction in which each vehicle was traveling.
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