How to Respond After a Car Accident


Posted about 6 years ago. 5 helpful votes



Pull Over to the Side of the Road

There is very little reason to leave your car in the middle of the road after an accident. In fact, it is generally not safe to leave your car in the road. You are just creating another hazard for other drivers. Whenever possible, move your car to the side of the road.


Make Sure No One is Hurt

Before you can do anything else, you must see if anyone is hurt. If someone is hurt, do not move them. Moving an injured person can cause further injuries. If anyone is hurt or cannot tell you if they are hurt, immediately call 911 and let the paramedics make the decision on moving someone.


Call the Police

The police will not always come to the scene of a collision, especially in major cities when there are no injuries. However, it is best to call them and let them tell you if they will not come. Most of the time, the parties can exchange information but you may end up with a "hothead" who refuses to exchange information. That information will be important to the police. Also, you should be aware that the police report is not evidence in most states. Laws prevent the report from becoming evidence because it is hearsay. However, the officer can testify about what he/she was told.


Take Pictures

Take pictures of everything. Take pictures of the accident scene, any debris, skid marks, your car, the other person's car and any visible injuries. You should always carry a disposable camera in your car for just this very reason!


Check for Witnesses

Some people may stop, look around, and then leave. If you see these people, ask them for their information. You want their name, number, address, and any other information they will give. You may need to find them later, especially if there is no police report.


Exchange Information

Take out a piece of paper, rip it in half, and write your name, phone number, address and insurance information on half. Give a pen and paper to the other person and ask him for this same information. You may also want to write down license plate numbers as well. The license plate can be especially important if the other party gives you wrong information.


Call Your Insurance Company

You should report the claim to your insurance company when you get home, or the next day at the latest. Tell them where the accident happened, when, with whom (from your half sheet of paper), whether there is a police report, if anyone was injured, and that is it. Do not talk about anything else at this point. It is still too fresh after the accident. Make certain not to give them a recorded statement at this time.


Do I need a lawyer?

At the scene of an accident, it can get confusing with many people milling about. Make sure you follow these basic steps. Then, even if you decide not to retain an attorney, one can help you evaluate your case, who is at fault, and explain your options. An attorney should also explain to you the process, who repairs your car, and how to protect yourself. Get a consultation - most of them are free. Then, when you are informed, you can make a better decision for yourself!

Additional Resources

California Personal Injury and Insurance Blog

National Association of Insurance Commissioners

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