Accidents are as frightening as they are unexpected. In the seconds and minutes after a car accident, a million things will be going through your head. To make the best of a bad situation, keep these six steps in mind. Follow them, and you’ll put yourself in a much better position to recover, both physically and financially.
1. Ensure Your Safety
Your very first concern should be your own health and safety. The shock of the crash may mean that you don’t feel pain right away, so be careful when moving. Take a few moments to mentally and physically check each part of your body, to make sure nothing is broken, bleeding, or otherwise hurt. If you’re hurt, immediately try to call 911, or signal to anyone around you that you need medical assistance.
If you’re unhurt, be very careful about your next move. Remember, you’re still on the road, and cars may be trying to maneuver around the accident. Do not get out of your car unless you absolutely need to. Even a wrecked car is safer than potentially walking through oncoming traffic. Only leave the car if it is either way off the road, or traffic is completely stopped around you. Try to be as visible as possible, be aware of your surroundings, and move to safety quickly but deliberately.
2. Assess The Damage
Once you know you’re OK, the next thing to do is check out the accident scene. The first thing to check for is other people. Call out to the cars around you. Ask anyone who’s already out whether their entire party is safe. Don’t try to be the hero and leap into a burning car, but try to make sure that anyone who needs medical attention gets it as quickly as possible.
Now, it’s time to turn your attention to the cars. Check your car first, but be sure to get a good look at every car involved. Take pictures, but make a mental note of everything as well. You’ll be asked about your recollection of the car accident by the police, your insurance, and others, so be sure you know as much as you can. The photos and proper reporting you give to the police and others will help you get the coverage you deserve for your insurance claim.
3. Call The Police
There’s a good chance that someone will call 911 as soon as a major accident occurs. Still, it’s a good idea to make sure that help is on the way by calling the police yourself. The cops will help secure the area, direct traffic, and assess what needs to be done.
A lot of drivers will decide not to call the police after a minor accident. This is especially true if the at-fault driver wants to settle things outside of insurance. Keep in mind, though, that the police will produce an official, impartial report. It may be worth it to combat any possible denials or misrepresentations by the other driver later on down the line.
4. Don’t Move The Cars Unless You Have To
Keeping the scene of the crash exactly as it is can be very important when the police start putting together their report. They’ll know exactly where each car was, what part of the road the accident occurred in, and other crucial details. Moving your car can also exacerbate any damage that has been done.
Still, sometimes it’s necessary to move your car. If you’re significantly blocking traffic, moving over to the side of the road can make things easier for everyone. Be aware of the cars around you, put your hazards on, and proceed cautiously. You don’t want yet another accident!
5. Gather Information
Make sure to document everything you can about the accident. Get the contact details, driver’s license number, insurance information, and license plate number of the other driver. Take plenty of pictures of the damage to every car involved, not just your own. Take pictures of the conditions on the road, any signs around, and any hazards in or around the road. You’ll want all that information to bolster your case when it comes to making a claim.
6. But Don’t Talk Too Much
Accidents are scary, and emotions can run high. The other driver may be agitated, or possibly even drunk. They may want to coerce you into admitting that you were at fault, whether or not you actually were. Even a small accident can run into thousands of dollars, giving people plenty of incentive to try something underhanded. Be polite, but try not to get drawn into long conversations. Once you know that they’re OK, try to wrap up the chit-chat.
The police will usually gather all of the necessary contact information to make their official report. If you’re feeling unsafe, don’t worry about getting that information from the other driver yourself. Instead, ask the police for that information. They’ll generally give everyone involved a copy of the report but can also help get any other information you may need.
Accidents happen in a matter of seconds. Their effects, though, can last for months and even years. Taking these steps immediately after a crash will help keep you safe and put you in the best possible position when you make your claim.