What to do if you have a Car Accident

By Carol Waterson on 13 February 2014
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Vehicle accidents are a well-recognized risk that is associated with driving. Most people know someone who has been involved in an accident or crash, while some have even experienced it themselves.

For people who have not personally been in a car accident, they are not likely to give much thought about what they should or should not do in the event of one. If a car accident does happen, it is an unexpected shock that can affect a person physically, mentally, and even financially. Because car accidents can happen unexpectedly, drivers should know what to do in the event of one. It is important that people understand what the accident laws are in their state as certain aspects may vary from one state to another. Certain steps, however, are universal, and it is important for all drivers to recognize what they are.

Stop the Vehicle After Impact

Immediately following an accident the driver will need to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. If the accident has occurred in a location that is extremely dangerous or where it obstructing traffic, move the car only so far that it is in a safer location. The driver, however, must be aware of what the state laws are before moving the vehicle. In certain states moving a car after it has been in an accident is a violation of the law.

Turn Off the Ignition

Never leave a car running after an accident. Once the vehicle has come to a stop, turn off the ignition. Leaving a car running can become a safety hazard, depending on the severity of the crash. By turning off the ignition the drivers are reducing the risk of starting a fire.

Breathe

Extreme emotional responses are natural when a person is involved in an accident. People are often overcome with adrenaline that may make them feel excessive fear, nervousness or defensiveness. The person whose (car got hit) by another vehicle may experience feelings of anger or frustration. To better handle the situation it is important to attempt to regain a measure of calm. Before stepping out of the car, stop a moment to take several deep breaths.

Leave the Car and Mark the Scene

Before stepping out of the car, check that it is safe to do so. If the vehicles are in or near high traffic, look for oncoming vehicles to avoid being accidentally hit. Set out flares, cones, or reflective markers to make the accident area more visible to other vehicles. This is particularly important if the crash happens at night or during fog, rain, or at any time that visibility may be low.

Check for Injuries

Check passengers and oneself for injuries. Look to see if anyone is unconscious or showing physical signs of injury. Ask verbally if anyone is injured or feels unwell. A person should not, however, attempt to administer first aid to anyone without first gaining the consent of the injured person. If at all possible, do not move or attempt to treat severe injuries until medical personnel arrives.

Call 911 and the Police

Call 911 in the event of injuries. This will ensure that medical services will get there as quickly as possible. The police will also need to be contacted and informed of the accident. State laws will vary on whether or not a report must be filed. In some cases a police report may be necessary for any car accident, while in other states a report may only be necessary if there is an injury or a certain amount of damage to the vehicles.

Collect Names

Collect the names of everyone who may have witnessed the accident. This includes passengers in either vehicle. If more than one (car got hit) during the crash, obtain information for each vehicle involved. Information includes names and contact information, such as phone numbers and email addresses.

Exchange Insurance and Drivers License Information

Ask to view the other driver's license. Document the license number and address. Confirm that the information on the driver's license is accurate and up-to-date. If the person does not have a valid license make note that the driver was driving without one. In addition to the driver's license, both parties will need to exchange insurance information. The policy number and the name of the insurance company should be written down. As with the driver's license it should be confirmed that the information is accurate. Also, write down license plate numbers, make and model of the cars. At no point during this process should there be an admission of fault.

Take Pictures and Notes

Make notes about the accident scene. Ideally, if there is a camera phone or disposable camera available, photographs should be taken. In many cases, insurance companies recommend keeping a disposable camera on hand for this purpose. Photos, notes, or both should be taken of any damage to all of the cars involved, the direction that the cars are facing, skid marks, and debris from the accident. Street lights and signs should also be photographed, as should any injuries obtained during the accident.

Wait for Law Enforcement

Wait for the police to arrive at the scene of the accident. They will need to talk with all parties in order to write out an accident report. The information contained in the report may be necessary to (file your claim). Do not attempt to leave the accident scene until the police have finished.

Contact the Insurance Company

Contact the insurance carrier and let them know that there has been an accident and (file your claim). Provide the insurance with the information gathered at the accident, such as the name of the other driver's insurance carrier, the damages sustained, and the type of vehicle involved in the accident. If unable to immediately contact the insurance, do so as soon as possible. Often, insurance companies have a time limit on how much time may pass before a claim can be filed.

Authored by Carol Waterson

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