A car accident is a frightening and potentially life-altering experience for anyone and even a minor collision can throw you for a loop. Knowing and reviewing what you should do at the scene can help you be prepared to act accordingly if you are involved in one.
To stay safe and protect yourself at the scene, there are steps you should take immediately after an accident.
- Your emotions will be running high but try to stay calm and act quickly. Check for injuries in your car and in the other vehicles. Help those who might be hurt and engage the help of others at the scene if available. Don’t move anyone with back or neck injuries.
- Call 911 even if it’s a small crash. Relay important information to the dispatcher such as the location, whether there are injuries and how many vehicles are involved. In the state of Washington, you’ll need to file an accident report if there are damages over $1000 or there are injuries.
- Move your car from the roadway. If it’s safe to do so, get your vehicle out of traffic, but don’t leave the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident carries significant penalties including jail time and hefty fines.
You’re going to need information for your insurance company afterward, so be sure to exchange names, addresses, insurance company information and license plate data with the other drivers. If you are safely able to do so and you aren’t injured, you’ll also want to take pictures of the scene to record the details. Get pictures of the location (like street signage and roadway markings), damage to the vehicles and any property damage. If there are witnesses, record their account of what happened and get their names and addresses.
Keep track of information
There will be a lot of information in the aftermath of a car collision, so start and retain a file to keep it all straight and available when you need it. You’ll need to manage information regarding medical visits, insurance claim information, police reports, information from eyewitnesses, details about the crash scene and car repair costs.
Involve the professionals
File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible to get your settlement started. Insurance companies will work together to determine fault and who might be responsible for payment. If you’re unhappy with the decision, consult a personal injury attorney to see if a lawsuit is appropriate. An attorney can also ensure that you meet any necessary deadlines and get a fair and reasonable settlement.