What to do after a car accident?

Know what to do in the aftermath of a crash. Nobody wants to be involved in a car accident. However, being prepared and knowing what to do in the event of an accident can save lives, reduce injuries, and make the claims process simpler and easier.

So you’ll be ready at the scene:

  • Keep important documents in your car, such as your registration, proof of auto insurance, and the name of your leasing agent. It’s also a good idea to keep important medical information (allergies, doctor names) on hand for you and your family members.
  • Make sure your vehicle is prepared for an emergency. Flares, orange cones, and emergency signage can help keep your loved ones and your vehicle safe after an accident. And, while we rely on technology, it is possible that it will fail when you need to record a phone number or license plate details—keep a pad and pen in your car.
  • Make sure you have enough auto insurance to cover your needs. While insurance is not a substitute for health and safety, knowing you’ll be covered in the event of an accident can alleviate stress.

In the event of an accident, immediately:

  • Take care. If possible, pull the vehicle to the side of the road. If the accident was caused by road rage, use extra caution when engaging with the other driver. If you are hit from behind and suspect you are the intended victim of a carjacking, pull over in a safe location.
  • Examine any possible injuries. First and foremost, attend to people—ensure that everyone is in good health. If anyone is hurt, call 911.
  • Examine the car’s damage. Once you’ve confirmed that everyone is safe, examine the extent of the vehicle’s damage. Take pictures if possible.
  • Do not flee the scene of the accident. If you come across an unattended vehicle, try to find the owner. If you can’t, leave a note with your name, address, and phone number. Keep a record of the accident’s details, including the make and model of the car and the location of the accident.
  • Gather as much information as possible. Obtain the names and contact information for everyone involved in the crash, including witnesses. If you are involved in a multi-car accident, ask the other driver or drivers for their license, car registration, and insurance ID card, as well as the makes and models of the vehicles involved. Take down the location of the accident, the time of day, and the weather conditions.
  • Smartphones are an excellent tool for documenting drivers and vehicles (as well as accident details).
    Notify the police or highway patrol. If you are involved in a serious accident, notify law enforcement, especially if anyone is injured. If necessary, the police will contact the nearest medical unit. Get the names and badge numbers of the officers on the scene, and ask where you can get a copy of their accident report.
  • Even if the police are unable to arrive at the scene, file an accident report. Fill out an incident report at the nearest police station (or on their website). Having an official report can help if the other driver decides to sue for damages or medical injuries, or if there is more damage done to your car than was initially thought. You will also need the report when filing an insurance claim.
  • Begin the claims procedure. Notify your insurance professional as soon as possible—the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to remember the details.