A car accident is always a gut-wrenching experience. At best, you will damage your vehicle. At worst, you — and others — may be injured. This is something we all want to avoid.
But it happens. So what do you do if it happens to you?
Stay calm and check for injuries
Make sure you and your passengers are safe and unharmed. If there’s another vehicle involved in the accident, check to make sure that the driver and any passengers are alright as well. Accidents are stressful, but staying calm and normal will help you stay in control of the situation.
Move impacted vehicles out of traffic
If your car is drivable, move it to the side of the road or as far away from traffic as possible while remaining at the scene of the accident. Warn oncoming traffic using your hazard lights or by setting road flares.
Call the police to report the accident
Dial 911, wait for the police to arrive, and answer any questions so the officer can file an official police report. In some states, calling the police is required by law. You’ll likely be asked to provide your driver’s license and insurance information as part of the standard law enforcement procedures.
Your insurance company may request a copy of the report if you file a claim. If the police can’t get to the scene or aren’t dispatched, exchange information with the other driver.
Don’t admit fault
It’s important not to admit fault when providing information to the police because your admission could be used against you in a lawsuit filed by the other driver. Their insurance company may also use it against you if you end up filing a claim with them.
Plus, it’s possible you weren’t at fault, even if you believe you made a mistake. It can be extraordinarily difficult to know exactly what happened in the moments after an accident.
Exchange info and take pictures
While the police report provides official documentation of the crash, always take your own pictures of the damage to your vehicle, as well as pictures of any other vehicles involved as a part of your car accident checklist.
Gather images from multiple angles to show exactly where any impact occurred. These images can help your claims representative determine who’s at fault in the accident.
Be sure to get the name, address, phone number, and insurance information of the other driver. If possible, swap other information such as vehicle makes and models, driver’s license numbers, and license plate numbers.
If there are third-party witnesses at the scene, politely ask for their contact information.
Start the claims process
Regardless of who’s at fault, inform your car insurance company that an accident occurred. Keep in mind that it’s your choice whether to file an auto insurance claim with your insurer or the other driver’s insurer.
Many insurance companies give you the option of filing a claim online, over the phone, or through their official mobile app. Generally, your insurer just needs some basic information about the accident to open a claim, including any pictures you took of the damage.
A claims representative will be assigned to you and will help you through the claims process, including scheduling repairs or answering any questions you have.