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Car accidents are stressful events that seem to raise dozens of questions at once: Should I call the police? Should I move my car? Is it safe to drive home? This tip sheet will guide you through the most important decisions you need to make before and after you’ve been in a collision.
No matter how careful you are, car accidents happen. The best way to make the aftermath as painless as possible is to have all the necessary paperwork on hand. Keep your registration and car insurance papers easily accessible-and make sure you have the right coverage to fit your needs. You can determine which kind of car insurance is best for you by contacting your insurance agent.
DO A HEALTH CHECK
In the event of a car accident, the first you thing you should do is ask if everyone is okay. If anyone seems groggy or unsure of his or her response, call 9-1-1. Many injuries can’t be seen, and the shock of a car accident can delay symptoms. To ensure the health of everyone involved, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
MOVE TO SAFETY
If you can’t feel your arms or legs, or have severe pain, and in most cases if circumstances permit, stay put until emergency medical services arrive. You and your passengers should relocate to the sidewalk or shoulder of the road as soon as possible following an accident. If the damage to your car is minor and the accident is straightforward, you can move the vehicle to the shoulder, as well. But if there are any injuries involved or you have any questions about the safety of driving the car, leave it where it is-even if it’s blocking traffic. You may also want to leave the car as is if there are questions about who’s at fault. No one wants to be the cause of a traffic jam, but it’s important to give the police the evidence they need to do their jobs. As you wait for the police, use flares to show other drivers that you’re stopped and stay as far away from the flow of moving traffic as possible
CALL THE POLICE—AND YOUR INSURANCE AGENT
Even if it seems like the damage is minor, calling the police is crucial to get a report on record. You should also call your insurance agent while you’re on the scene. That way, they can tell you exactly what they will need to process the claim, which can save you from going back and forth between the police and your insurance agency in the days following the accident.
You should also avoid discussing fault when going over the facts with the other driver. Only speak with your lawyer and the police about the details of the collision. Also, do not sign any statements or promise to pay for any damages without first consulting your lawyer.
EXCHANGE YOUR INFO
When you finish filing your report, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver before you leave. The most important information includes:
- Full name and contact information
- Insurance company
- License plate number
- Type, color and model of vehicle
- Location of accident
- Full names and phone numbers of any witnesses
Published by Allstate: January 2012
An Example from Squawk Fox of What to do Following an Accident:
Taking simple steps like keeping an emergency preparedness kit can help you survive the aftermath of a fender bender or even something worse. A car crash sure isn’t my idea of fun, but through my own car accident ordeal I’ve found these 14 things to do before and after a car accident can help you get your motor running again – even if your car is a total write-off. Hugs.
1. Stay in Your Car and Stay Calm
Right after impact my “better half” swung open the door to “see” what was going on. I grabbed his leg and told him to sit still inside the car. I think I made the right decision. The number of cars rubber-necking at our accident or driving past at highway speeds was dangerous, and could have hit us if we walked about in a confused state. Sitting still and waiting for the airbag gas to clear (those things make a mess) gave us some time to collect our thoughts, thank a higher power for our teeth and toes, and discuss what to do next.
In our situation our wrecked car was on the side of the road after the engine cut out, so we weren’t in danger of being hit on the highway by oncoming traffic. If your vehicle is still operable and you don’t have any serious injuries after the car accident, it’s a good idea to drive your vehicle to the side of the road to avoid another crash. If your car cannot be moved, I think it’s safer to just remain in your car with seat belts fastened and hazard lights turned on until help arrives. At this point you may be in shock and unaware of any injuries, so sitting still could prevent further health issues. If your car is on fire, it’s probably safest to vacate that vehicle if you can. 🙂
2. Report the Car Accident
As soon as the airbag gas clears and you’ve located your cell phone, call the police and 911 – or your emergency assistance equivalent. After our accident I didn’t dial these essential digits since the fellow in the other vehicle was first to his cell phone – I was still chocking on airbag gas.
After the essential emergency digits have been dialed, do stay at the scene of the accident until the police have questioned and reviewed the incident getting your description of what happened. Be prepared to wait a bit for the emergency authorities to arrive, the real world isn’t as quick to respond as those on television dramas.
Soon after the accident be very cautious about your health as not all injuries can be seen. If you or your passengers are not feeling right then call for an ambulance right away.
3. Emergency Preparedness Kit
Planning for a car accident is not a lot of fun, but it could keep you safe. Before stepping into your vehicle today consider if you travel with the essential emergency tools that could keep yourself well in case of a car crash. Here’s a basic emergency car kit list:
- Basic Emergency Preparedness Kit
- Cell phone
- Disposable camera
- Pen and paper
- Medical information card – detailing insurance numbers, allergies and conditions that may require special attention if you are not conscious.
- Contact names and numbers: emergency numbers and relatives contacts
- First aid kit
- Small road cones, emergency flares
- Mylar blankets
After a flying truck wheel hit our car, I quickly discovered I was not fully prepared for a car crash. I didn’t have my cell phone, we would have loved some small road cones to set around our car to alert passing drivers of the accident, and a Mylar “space” blanket would have kept me warm. After the accident my body temperature dropped drastically and I got very cold waiting for the police to arrive.
There are many companies who put together “Road Assistance Kits” boasting several pieces and gadgets. Many of these kits are pricey and contain cheaply constructed tools so beware if you’re looking for an all-in-one safety solution. A better approach may be to purchase only the items you need (like booster cables, LED flashlights, and bandages) and spend a bit more for quality tools. The last thing you want is an essential tool to break when you need it.
4. Exchange Car Insurance and Driver Details
After an accident, always exchange driver details and take some accident notes. Be sure to use your pen and paper (from your emergency kit) to gather the following:
- phone numbers
- driver license
- license plate number
- insurance company and policy number
In our situation the driver’s name was different than the name of the insured on the accident vehicle – so we had to take down the details for each of the driver and the car owner. My “better half” also wrote down a description of the truck, including: make, model, and color.
5. Locate Any Witnesses
Did someone see the accident happen? Get their name and number just in case you need a witness for the accident. It’s good to know someone can speak up for you in case of a dispute.
6. Don’t Admit Fault
When you come face-to-face with the driver of the other vehicle try not to assign blame or admit fault or liability, even if you think you made the mistake. Let the police and insurance companies do their jobs and use their tools to come to a conclusion. You don’t want to admit to something in a state of shock or sadness.
7. Don’t Share Injury Concerns
If someone asks, “How are you doing?” keep a low profile by saying, “I’m shaken up”. The truth of the matter is you don’t know what is or isn’t wrong with you at this early stage. Besides, you don’t want to make statements while in shock and later have to refute them after seeking the advice of a medical professional.
8. Know What Your Car Insurance and Health Insurance Covers
Knowing your car and health insurance details could save you a lot of grief when dealing with a car accident scenario. It’s always better to know BEFORE an accident that you’re fully covered for ambulance trips, tow trucks, or rental cars. Check your policies for specifics and get extra coverage today for those essentials you’ll need covered if you’re injured or your car cannot make the drive home.
9. Photograph and Document the Accident
Be sure to carry a disposable camera in your emergency kit to photograph the damage to all vehicles. If your cell phone has a built-in camera – then you’re good to go. Take photographs of the damage to your car, the other driver’s car, and the entire accident scene to give perspective of the event. Take wide shots of tire skid markings to show vehicle travel paths. Photographs showing the entire accident can help you make your case to claims adjusters if there is a dispute.
10. Seek Medical Attention
Luckily my “better half” and I didn’t require an ambulance after our accident. But after our car was towed away we did seek medical attention to check over our necks, backs, shoulders, and general health. As small as an injury might seem at the time, get all health concerns documented sooner rather than later. Many injuries will start off as minor pains (like whiplash) which if not taken care of properly could get worse over a few short days. Besides, getting a doctor to document EVERYTHING sooner can only help any insurance claims you need to make later.
11. Report Accident To Your Insurance Company
As soon as your stomach has settled and you’ve gone to the doctor to get checked over, call your insurance company to report the accident – even if the damage seems minor or the other driver wants to settle without making an insurance claim. Seemingly small fender-bender car accidents can reveal major damage later on – like a bent car frame – so get your insurance company in the know sooner or you might be without coverage when you really need it.
12. Call Your Lawyer
I squawk you not. While our car was sitting on the side of the road leaking some funky engine liquid stuff, my “better half” called his lawyer and asked specifically what else he should do before the car was towed. Many of the tips in this article are from that call. Getting your legal beagle in the know sooner may help you get the most from an insurance claim and help you see more clearly when everything seems a mess.
13. Remove Belongings from Car
If you’re well-enough to walk away from the wreck and it’s safe to do so, then don’t forget to remove your valuables from your vehicle before it’s towed. Rescue any driving gadgets, insurance papers, repair reports, receipts, purse, wallet, or music before leaving your keys with the tow operator.
14. Be Thankful
After our accident I was very thankful to still be alive with my “better half” in one piece. Sure, our car is a complete “write-off” but vehicles are just stuff. People are priceless. Try the best you can to be thankful for what you have today, not for what you lost.