Thousands of people sustain property damage and personal injuries in motor vehicle accidents every year. Car crashes are stressful, to be sure. With presence of mind and attention to eight essentials, though, anyone can do what needs to be done in the moment and beyond. If you’re ever in a car wreck, here are eight things you need to do.
1. Stop and assess
Any time you are in a car crash, no matter how serious it may be or minor it may seem, stop your vehicle as soon as it is possible to do so. Not only is it illegal to leave the scene of any accident, your vehicle may be damaged unbeknownst to you and carrying on may put you and your passengers at risk. Once you’ve come safely to a stop, check in on your own condition and the state of your passengers.
2. Protect the scene
Take a look around the scene. Are you in the middle of a roadway? On the shoulder but interfering in traffic? Is visibility poor? If you have flares or pylons to protect the scene from oncoming traffic safely, do so to keep the motor vehicle collision from getting more complicated.
3. Call 911
Any time you’re involved in a car crash — whether it appears minor or serious — call 911. Be prepared to answer questions about the seriousness and location of the accident and whether there are any injuries. During this call, answer all questions accurately and completely, but do not admit liability or assign blame for the accident.
4. Get and give information
Calmly reach out to the drivers of the other vehicles involved in the road accident. Be prepared to give some information to them, and to get some information from them. Here’s what you need: their full name and how to reach them; the name of their insurer and policy number; their license plate number and driver’s license number; and the make, model and color of their car. And remember, don’t accept or assign any blame.
5. Take photographs
Take advantage of that phone you’ve probably got in hand. Take pictures of the scene, including all vehicles involved in the motor vehicle collision, any damage they sustained, the roadway, any injuries, any debris, any weather conditions, etc. You never know when all this information may come in useful.
In the best case scenario, here’s what else to try and gather : the name and badge number of any police officers who attend the scene; a copy of any police reports (you may need to wait until later for this); and the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident (passersby or pedestrians in the area).
6. Get out of the way
Once you’ve accomplished those first few steps quickly and safely, determine whether you can move your car out of or off the roadway if there’s any risk that you’re interfering with other traffic or any chance that others will get tangled up in the scene unless you relocate your vehicles and damage.
7. Call your insurance company
As soon as possible — ideally while at the scene of the motor vehicle collision — call the emergency number for your insurer. You’ll find it on your insurance paperwork. Answer any and all questions accurately but keep in mind not to accept blame or assign blame, and do not provide any recorded statement until you’ve had a chance to recover from any injuries and get legal advice. Which leads us to our last point.
8. Get medical attention and legal advice
Even if you are a doctor or a lawyer — or both — don’t make any assumptions about your medical condition or legal situation. Sometimes the adrenaline that flows following an accident masks injuries for a time. Within a couple days, go get checked out completely and tell the physician about your collision. Once the medical issues have been addressed, see a lawyer as soon as possible for advice about your legal rights and responsibilities.
Personal injury collisions can be and get complicated quickly, even seemingly minor ones. As stressful and emotional as these accidents can be, though, you can get through the immediate crisis and the aftermath by staying calm and keeping these eight tips in mind.