What to Do When You're in a Car Accident

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Nobody likes to think about car accidents. Some people are even superstitious about it, to the point where they believe that thinking too much about it can actually cause an accident to occur. But no pain in the neck can quite match up to being involved in a car accident and not knowing what to do. To make sure you don’t find yourself in this unenviable predicament, we’ve come up with a checklist of things to do when you’re in a car accident. Following it closely will help ensure that you’ve got all the necessary information to file a claim with your car insurance provider.

  • Don’t leave the scene. You’ve probably heard this plenty of times before and have had it drilled into your head so much that it might just kick in instinctually. Even if there’s no major damage and the other party involved says they’d rather contact you later to iron out the insurance details, stay where you are and call the police. Since the police report will be critical to determining who was at fault, don’t move your cars unless there’s an absolute need to clear the way or if it’s unsafe to leave the cars where they are.
  • Set up road flares or reflectors in both directions to alert other drivers, even during daylight. This is critical to ensuring that nobody else accidentally joins your merry roadside party and can prevent serious injuries.
  • Never admit fault or give information about your insurance coverage limits. Information about your coverage limits is proprietary and should only be discussed with your insurance company. When it comes to admitting fault, what you say could be held against you in the eyes of the insurance companies. Let the police determine who’s at fault for the accident by looking at the accident scene.
  • Exchange insurance information with the other driver. While you’re waiting for the police to arrive on the scene of the accident, take down the other driver’s insurance information. This can be found on the proof of insurance card that drivers are required to keep with them and will include the insurance company’s name, the driver’s policy number, and a phone number where you can contact the insurance company.
  • Document as much information as you possibly can. Get the names and addresses of everyone involved in the accident, including any passengers. Note the exact location or street address of the accident. Write down a description of the damages on all vehicles involved. When the police arrive, get the police officer’s name, badge number, and the police report number. If any other emergency services respond (fire department, ambulance), get their information too.
  • Take photos of the accident scene. This is one of the reasons so many roadside emergency kits come equipped with a disposable camera. If you don’t have an emergency roadside kit, a cell phone camera will also do. Be sure to take as many snapshots of the accident as possible and from numerous angles, and include shots of the road itself and any skid marks. For your protection, take copious pictures of the other person’s car. This will prevent them from being able to claim additional damage later on that wasn’t present at the time of the crash.
  • Contact your insurance company to notify them you’ve been in a car accident and to start the claims process.