What to do if You are in a Car Accident
One of the most jarring, scary, dreadful, and painful things that can happen to you is being in a car accident. It can be a time of panic, bewilderment, anger, and frustration. I have been in several accidents and the only thing I can remember my father (a cop) saying about it was, “DON’T move the cars.” Well, that is kind of true. But since you are most likely not currently in an accident while you are reading this, let’s take a minute to review what to do if you are in an accident.
First, try not to panic. That’s harder than it sounds. Try to remain calm. Check to see if you are injured, if you are able to (if you’re not unconscious). If you are
okay, your next step is to try to make sure the car is off. If the motor is still running, try to make sure it is in park and turn the engine off. This can help to protect you, your passengers, and the other vehicle.
Next, check to see if the other passengers are injured. If you or your passengers are injured, call 911 immediately. Be careful with injured people! You can easily make things much worse, or even cause permanent damage to someone if you are not a medical professional and don’t know what you’re doing. This is especially true if a person has an injured neck or spine. Call 911 and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
If it is safe to get out of the car, do so as soon as you can. Make sure all passengers are safely out of the car as well. Move away from the vehicle. Check to ensure the other driver and passengers are okay. Again, call 911 if there are any injuries. In any case, call the police. This will help with insurance claims.
Document the Accident
If you are lucky enough to have a minor fender-bender, count yourself lucky and move on to the next step – documenting the scene. This is where the argument of moving the vehicles (if you can) comes in to play. If you are able, I highly recommend taking as many pictures (or even video) of the accident as you can before moving the cars. Of course, sometimes moving the cars is not an option. The main thing to keep in mind is your safety and the safety of others. Never risk taking a photo if it places you in danger (like on a busy highway).
Be sure to gather the necessary information, such as the names of the driver and passengers, license plate numbers (you can take a photo too), insurance info (again, a quick snapshot can help, but don’t rely on photos alone), and the make and model of the vehicles. Also, if there are witnesses, and they are willing, get their information as well. Document the location of the accident and the name and badge number of any responding police officers.
Don’t Discuss the Accident
If you talk to the other driver to see if they are injured, that is fine. But do not discuss the accident and do not admit guilt or fault. There is too much going on at the moment to know who is at fault. Let that come out in the evidence later.
Call Your Insurance Company
Finally, call your insurance company. They can walk you through the process and make sure you have gotten everything you need for a claim. They can also (usually) help you arrange for a tow truck, if needed.
I sincerely hope you never need to remember these suggestions. I wish you safe travels!