7 Key Steps to Take Immediately After a Car Accident

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Have you ever been in a car accident? The moments following it can often be a blur with an adrenaline rush and a feeling of panic and confusion. However, following these seven important steps right away after an accident will enable you to ensure your safety, guard your rights, and simplify the claims process in the future.

1. Ensure Safety and Call 911

The foremost thing to do following an accident is to examine yourself and your fellow passenger for injuries. Look for any signs of bleeding, dizziness, pain, or confusion. If you can move safely, evaluate the situation and decide if you can move your car to a location off the roads and away from any traffic. Turn the hazard lights on to caution other drivers and wait for assistance to arrive if your car cannot be driven. It is important that you avoid standing near traffic or in areas where there is a risk of debris falling.

Once you have made sure you and others around you are safe, call 911 straightaway. Even if the accident appears to be minor, it is essential to call the police. The responding officers will secure the scene, direct traffic flow, and file the accident report. This report will be a key piece of documentation for future reference. Moreover, if there are injuries, emergency responders can arrive quickly to provide medical care.

2. Document the Scene If Possible

While waiting for help to arrive, if you are able to and if it is safe to do so, use your smartphone or camera to record the accident scene. Take photos and make videos of the damage to all vehicles involved, including close-ups of any scratches, dents, or broken parts. Also, take pictures of any skid marks or debris on the road, the nearby traffic signals and road signs, and the general accident scene. Pay close attention to the position of the vehicles. If there are visible injuries, please use discretion and only take pictures if appropriate.

If you cannot take pictures or videos, write down important details about the scene on a piece of paper or your phone. This may include the date and time of the accident, the location, i.e., street names, landmarks, etc., weather conditions, a description of the damage to each vehicle involved, and the names plus contact information of any witnesses who may have seen the accident.

3. Exchange Information With Other Drivers

Once the police arrive and you share information with them, you must also gather contact and insurance details from all other drivers involved in the accident. Remember to obtain the following info from each driver:

  • Full name and driver’s license number
  • Contact information like a phone number
  • Insurance company name, policyholder name, and number
  • License plate number and vehicle make and model

Avoid admitting fault at the accident scene. Just stick to the facts and simply explain what happened from your viewpoint.

4. File a Police Report

Having a police report on file is needed for documenting the accident. The report will usually include details about the date, time, and location of the accident, the responding officer’s observation of the scene, statements from the drivers involved, and witness accounts, if available. They will also include a preliminary assessment of fault, though it is not always definitive, and any citations issued. While you should not admit fault, it is important that you cooperate with the police and answer their queries honestly and to the best of your ability.

5. Get Medical Attention

Even if you are feeling fine at the scene of the accident, it is important that you seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Few injuries, like internal bleeding or whiplash, may not become obvious with immediate symptoms. A doctor can thoroughly evaluate you for any possible injuries and generate a medical record. This record will serve as evidence if you need to file a claim for injuries sustained in the accident.

6. Keep Records of All Expenses

After an accident, particularly if you need medical treatment, it is important to keep a record of all your expenses. This includes prescription medications, medical bills, physical therapy or rehabilitation expenses, lost wages due to missed work, and car repair estimates or receipts, if applicable. Keeping detailed records of these expenses will be helpful when filing an insurance claim or negotiating with an insurance company.

7. Contact a Lawyer

Finally, if you were injured in the accident, contacting a personal injury lawyer in your area is highly recommended. For instance, an accident lawyer in San Luis Obispo can advise you regarding your legal rights and options, help you handle the confusing insurance claims process, and help you collect evidence to support your case. They will also handle negotiations with the insurance firm on your behalf to make sure you are rightfully compensated for damages or injuries.

The Bottom Line

Being involved in a car accident can be stressful and overwhelming but it is imperative to try and remain calm. By following the seven steps mentioned here, you can take charge of the situation and protect yourself.