Car accidents, even minor ones, leave people understandably shaken up. It’s enough to remember your own name, much less any kind of emergency protocol. That’s why we’ve broken the aftermath down into simple, easy-to-remember steps so you’ll feel less helpless should you ever experience the thing every driver dreads most.
STEP 1: Check Yourself
Take a deep breath and assess whether or not you’ve suffered any injuries. Do the same for any passengers. If you’re able to call 911 for emergency service, do so immediately.
STEP 2: Move
If there are no injuries to report and the accident appears minor, flip on your car’s hazard lights and try to move your vehicles away from traffic if you can. Once out of harm’s way, you can set up flares to better alert other drivers and keep you safe. If the damage is more severe, or anyone is injured, leave your car exactly where it is until medical and emergency services arrive.
Safety Note: If your accident happens on a busy road stay in your car until help arrives. It's extremely dangerous, and often impossible, to safely cross a highway or busy intersection without being hit by oncoming traffic. It's not worth the risk.
STEP 3: Call
If you haven’t called 911 yet do it now, even if the accident is minor. Once they arrive, be sure to get the officer’s name, badge or ID number, phone number, and request a copy of the accident report, which you will need for your insurance claim. It’s also good to have for your records, and incredibly useful if the cause of the accident is in dispute and you end up in court.
STEP 4: Check Them
If your accident involved another person, assess their condition. Ask them if they’re OK, but be sure not to say anything that could possibly incriminate you later. Even a simple “I’m sorry” could end up shifting blame onto you even if you weren’t at fault.
When exchange information, making sure to write down the following things:
- Their name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Make/model/year of their car
- License plate number
- Insurance carrier
- Insurance policy number
IMPORTANT TIP: Never give anyone your social security number. No one on the scene will ever need it, not even the police, who should be well on their way since you already called in step 3.
STEP 5: Snap
Luckily, almost all of us carry hi-res cameras with us at all time, so snap some pictures of the scene from a few different angles. Be sure (if you are able) to get photos of the damage to both vehicles, the accident location, and the people involved. You should also consider purchasing a dash cam, which are affordable and definitely worth the investment to eliminate doubt as to what exactly happened.
STEP 6: File
Call your insurance agent immediately so they can start processing your claim. Most large agencies have apps for your mobile device to make your insurance policy information easy to access and make submitting claims simple.
Car Accident Checklist
Print this out and keep a copy in your glove box:
We hope you never have to use it. Drive safe!