It’s happened. You’ve been in auto accident. Nobody ever thinks it’s going to happen to them, but when it does, it’s all too real. Or maybe even then, after the fact, it might take a moment to grasp the reality: I was in a car accident.
Once you’ve had a second to gather your bearings, it’s time to take action. It’s a hassle, yes, but you have to get things into motion.
But what first?
Here’s a basic, go-to list on what you should do after you’ve been in an auto accident.
Regardless of what happened — if you hit them, they hit you, it was minor, major — do not drive away. It does not matter how you think the accident played out. If you leave the scene of the crime, you will face legal repercussions.
Also, driving away is a serious safety issue. Again, your initial assessment of the situation could very well be inaccurate, and your (or a passengers) body might be enduring much more than your brain is letting on. Adrenaline is a powerful thing — it’s not uncommon for a victim to be suffering a serious injury, but the shock of the accident has kept their body ignorant for hours after the fact.
2.) Secure the Scene
If you’re in a safe area and not in the way of oncoming traffic, then keep the scene exactly as is. But, if the accident is minor, and you’re in the way of traffic, move the vehicles to a safe place. Turn on hazards, and if available, secure the scene with cones, flares or warning triangles.
Common traffic rules conduct drivers to alter their drive a bit to give a vehicle on the side of the road additional room as they drive by, but do not count on this for safety. Unfortunately, drivers are not always, 100% paying attention (as you know, having just been in an accident), so put yourself in the safest position possible to avoid being, again, the consequence of a reckless driver. Stand as far away from the active road, especially if you’re beside a busy highway, or if it’s dark.
3.) Call for Help
Once the scene is safe, IMMEDIATELY call the police. Again, regardless of how minor you think the accident is, call the police. You want the entire incident on file as soon as possible by a third party, legal traffic cop to keep the situation transparent. Do not be swayed or intimidated by the other party. It is protocol to call police, so you should do just that. Additionally, you may need a police report to file a claim with your insurance company.
If you think you may require medical assistance, call an ambulance. It is better to be safe than sorry.
4.) Gather Information
Politely collect information from the other driver(s), such as:
- Names, contact information of drivers and passengers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Insurance companies and policy numbers
Gather other intel, such as:
- Vehicle descriptions (make, model, year)
- Lisence plate numbers
- Accident scene location, address
- Eyewitnesses — ask for names and contact information
- Survey if any cameras were around
- Police officer name and badge number
Take photos of all of the above.
5.) Give an Accurate Record
The police is going to ask you what happened, so to the best of your knowledge, accurately relay the events of the accident with specificity and honesty. Be thorough on every detail, and do not speculate, guess or misstate any facts. If you’re unsure if you’re injured, than say that — don’t just say no. Also, do not admit fault, even if you think the accident was your doing. Just give an account of what happened, and let the traffic and legal team analyze. It is normal to have jitters and nerves, regardless if you were at fault. Try to stay calm, simply answer the questions and inform the police officer of what you know.
6.) File a Claim
Begin the claim at the earliest availability, when the incident is still fresh. Get the facts down, and add details later if you need. Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible.
Keep a personal file of everything. You must stay organized, because you do not know how long and intensive this process will be. Files, reports, claims, photos, receipts, contact information, their insurance company, people you talk with on the phone — keep it all, and date it all. In preparation that things get sticky, you want to stay on top of everything. Also, stick to the facts, and do what you need to do. Do not be swayed by the other party — they might say one thing to you at the scene, and tell their insurance company something different. Be thorough in your reports, and be vigilant and persistent.
7.) Consult With Your Lawyer
An auto accident attorney knows the ends and outs of an auto accident case. Seek advice on how to proceed. Often, your attorney can advise on compensation of your vehicle, as well as pain and suffering. The lawyers at Simon O’Rourke Law Firm, P.C. can help with your case.