A negligent person can make terrible driving choices, crashing into and injuring even the most careful drivers. If you find yourself in an easily avoidable crash due to someone else’s fault, ensure your safety and that of others while getting the information you need for an insurance claim or a lawsuit for damages.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the following steps could help guide you through the often challenging time of dealing with a crash and its aftermath. Take these steps regardless of who caused the crash. Never hesitate to speak with a car accident attorney right afterward.
1. Do Self-Evaluation for Injuries
Assess your situation immediately, and if you are not seriously hurt and can do so, call 911 or ask someone else to do so. If you’re seriously injured, lie or sit still without trying to move your body in any way and wait for first responders.
2. Assess the Well-being of Your Passengers
If you are not too seriously hurt to move, check on any passenger in your car and if anyone is injured, call 911 or anyone around you to call for help.
3. Move to Safer Place
If you are okay enough to move, then move or walk to the side of the road or a sidewalk. Check to see if your car is posing a danger and if it is and is safe to drive, then move it to the side of the road. If it is not safe to drive the car, then leave it as is and move yourself to safety.
4. Call 911
Whether a crash is minor or major, call the police—which the law may require, depending on your state. If your car engine is on, turn it off and turn your hazard lights on as you call 911.
5. Wait for Help
Once you have called 911, make sure you turn your engine off and that your hazard lights are on. Use road flares in your emergency tool kit to warn other vehicles of the hazard created by the crash scene and for them to slow down.
6. Exchange Information with Other Driver
Once you have made sure you and any passengers are uninjured, reach out to the other driver and exchange contact and insurance information.
The following is the most important information you should exchange as drivers according to the III:
- Full names and contact information
- Insurance company and policy number
- Driver’s license and license plate number
- Type, color, and model of teh vehicle
- Location of the crash
The III recommends that you limit your conversation with the other driver to getting the information above. Avoid discussing fault if you discuss facts of the crash with the other driver. The adjuster reviewing your claim will determine fault based on a variety of factors, including inspection of the vehicles, damage, and information provided by you and the other driver involved in the crash.
7. Accident Report
The officer who responds will usually document what they can as established by their observations and asking questions. The officer will then complete an accident report documenting that information. In the event no police come to the crash scene, you can proceed to the nearest police station and have a report recorded there yourself.
To help protect yourself, the III recommends that you:
- Identify the officers. Once a police officer arrives, get his or her name and badge number and do so for all responding officers, if more than one.
- Get a copy of the Accident Report. Inquire from the police officers present where you can obtain a copy of the accident report. This report may be requested by your insurer when you file a covered auto insurance claim.
- Take pictures. If you can do so safely, document the crash thoroughly by taking several pictures of your vehicle and from different angles, showing clearly the damage done to both your car and the other car involved in the crash. It is also a good idea to take a picture of the other car’s number plate. These photos may help support your insurance claim.
- Talk to witnesses. If there is anyone who witnessed the crash, make sure you take down their full names and contact information, as well.
8. Notify Your Insurer
The sooner you start the insurance claim process, the better, so it is a good idea to call your insurance agent while you’re at the crash scene. The insurance agent will tell you exactly what you need to do and what they will need from you to process your insurance claim as well as what to expect during the entire insurance claims process.
9. Keep a File
It is important and efficient to keep all your auto crash-related information and documents in one file. You should update this file as you get the new or additional information, and you should have it ready to share with your car accident lawyer, who will use it to prepare the best case for your compensation.
10. Seek Medical Care
Injuries caused by automobile crashes don’t always immediately appear. Many crash victims start experiencing pain after a day or so following a crash. Unless you can determine with absolute certainty that you were not injured, it is in your best interest to seek medical attention at your nearest emergency room or by visiting your family doctor.
11. Consult a Car Accident Attorney
If you are the victim of an auto crash, consult an experienced car accident lawyer. You may get a settlement offer from the insurance company, but it is often a mistake to accept the offer without consulting a lawyer. The offer is usually too low to properly compensate you. An experienced auto accident lawyer can protect your right to compensation.