Whether you’re a new driver or a veteran on the road, you should always be prepared in the event of an auto accident. Because millions of motor vehicle accidents occur in the United States every year, drivers should take certain steps to ensure they are protected in the event of a crash. To start, drivers should keep an emergency kit in their car. It is recommended that drivers carry a cell phone, pen and paper, disposable camera, a card with information about any medical allergies or medical conditions that may require special attention in the event of serious injuries. Additionally, drivers should have access to a first aid kit and emergency flares, cones, or warning triangles.
While being prepared is essential, drivers should also familiarize themselves with the steps which should be taken after an auto accident. The following provides a general overview for drivers who may find themselves involved in a car crash:
The first thing you should do after an accident is check on your passengers and any injuries they might have.
In a minor accident with no serious injuries, drivers should turn on their hazard lights and pull over to the side of the road, away from oncoming traffic. If the road is not very busy and you are traveling through a sparsely-populated area, especially late at night, turn your hazards on and drive until you reach a more populated area or a police station.
In a more serious accident, if it is possible to exit the vehicle safely, do so. If your passengers are conscious and able to move, help them to safety. Often times, in a serious accident when the fuel tank is damaged, gasoline may leak onto the road and ignite.
If you or a passenger is unable to move, wait for help to arrive.
When it is safe to do so, check on the other driver.
Exchange information. Make sure you get the name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver’s license number and license plate number for the other driver and the owner of the vehicle. If the vehicle is registered to someone other than the driver, make sure you clarify the relationship between the driver and owner before you get the name and address for both individuals.
Take down a written description of both vehicles. Make sure you get the year, make, model, and color of the vehicles involved.
Carefully document the exact location of the accident in addition to how it happened. Be as polite as possible to the other driver but only discuss the accident with the authorities.
It is important that you do not say that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was. For example, you may have been struck by a driver who failed to yield where you had the right of way. Even though the accident may feel like your fault because you saw the other driver, it was legally the responsibility of that driver to check for traffic from your lane before continuing.
Photograph and document the accident. If you do not have a disposable camera and your cell phone has the ability to take pictures and not been damaged, use that as best you can. Be sure to take photos that document the overall context of the accident to make your case properly to a claims adjuster.
File an accident report. In many places, law enforcement may not respond to accidents without injuries, so it is important that you file a state vehicle accident report. These reports are available at police stations and usually at the Department of Motor Vehicles website. Filing a police report will typically encourage the insurance companies to handle your claims faster.
Know what your insurance covers. Some policies don’t automatically cover the cost of towing or rental cars. It will be much easier if you know the details of your policy.
Contact an auto accident attorney to evaluate your claim. Routinely, insurance companies may initially offer a low-ball settlement offer. You may be entitled to much more compensation than the insurance company is willing to offer you without an attorney, so it’s important to learn your legal rights before accepting a settlement offer.