what to do after a car accident

What to do after a Car Accident

Knowing what to do after a car accident is extremely important. In fact, not long ago, I was driving home from work on a snowy afternoon. After a long day, all I could think about was getting back and relaxing. The road was icy, and the light level was low. Suddenly the traffic light up ahead changed from green to yellow, so I put on my breaks. I grew up driving in the snow, so I was fully aware of not slamming on the breaks or overreacting. But in that instant, it didn't matter. My car slid on the ice, and I went right into the cross traffic that had just started to move. 

BAM! 

My car t-boned the other vehicle, and my brain went into panic mode.

What was I going to do now?

Was that accident my fault?

Is everyone OK?

What to do after a car accident

These were just a few of the million thoughts running through my mind at that moment. No one was hurt, and the police eventually showed up. The other driver and I exchange information, and we went on our way. As I was leaving, my mind switched gears, and I began to wonder if I had missed something. Was the other driver going to sue me? Were there any witnesses? Was everything handled properly?

Everything did end up just fine, but that experience led me to want to create a guide for other motorists who may end up in a similar situation. I know I will do things differently in the future should something like that happen again. So take the advice in this guide, or even print it and keep it in your car, because in the instant of an accident your mind will probably be everywhere except there with you in the moment, thinking logically. 

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Stay put and call for help

The best thing you can do after a car accident, whether you are at fault or not, is to call the police. Some motorists may try to persuade you to handle things without getting the law involved, but this could really come back to haunt you. If you didn't call the police and then leave, even if you thought you and the other driver settled everything, they could turn around and file a hit-and-run, and you could face serious legal issues. Make sure you request a police report and write down names and badge numbers of the officers. If you sense or know someone is hurt, make sure you also call an ambulance. It is not your job to determine if someone needs medical attention or not. In this case, it is best to be on the safe side. 

Keep calm and watch what you say

Nothing good will come from getting angry, shouting or fighting. Remain calm. At that moment, a majority of people will go straight to being upset and unpleasant. Just remember, the other driver is probably feeling the same way as you. It is also important to speak with the other driver as little as possible. Stick with the basics. The reason for this is people tend to admit fault, either purposefully or unintentionally. Admitting fault can come back and bite you in the butt in the wrong situations. Especially if there is a medical issue or someone is killed after a car accident.

Check on the other driver and passengers

Before assessing vehicle damage, make sure everyone is okay. Call for medical attention if someone needs it. If someone is unconscious, or in pain, don’t move them, unless it is absolutely necessary. Waiting for help to arrive can be one thing to do after a car accident.

Always carry a roadside emergency kit

You should always have a roadside emergency kit and/or first aid kit in your car. A good roadside emergency kit will come equipped with all sorts of tools and items that can help during an accident.

One item that is often overlooked, especially in this day and age, is a camera. A cheap disposable camera can be a lifesaver for providing visual information for your insurance company or, if necessary, a lawyer. Most phones have a camera on them, but it won't do you any good if its dead or damaged.

Exchange information with the other driver

You should get the names, phone numbers, address, drivers’ license information, license plate numbers, and the insurance information from the other driver. It would also be a good idea to get the names and numbers of passengers. This information can be obtained quickly and easily by using your camera to snap a quick picture of each piece of information.

Look for witnesses and ask for statements

You should always try and find someone who witnessed the accident and get a statement from them if they are willing. If the accident was not your fault, having an eyewitness can be one of your best assets in dealing with your insurance company, the other driver's insurance company or lawyers. Witnesses can help you with what to do after a car accident.

Talk with your insurance company

You will need to talk to your insurance company. Be honest about what happened, explaining the facts clearly. If they find out you are lying, you will make things worse. You have motor vehicle insurance for a reason, and it's meant to help you with what to do after a car accident. Some people are worried their rates will increase after reporting an accident. While this may be true with your insurance company, if you wait to file a claim then try and do it later you could end up paying even more, or worse.

Examine settlement offers carefully

You might be offered a settlement by an insurance company. Don’t settle until you know you’ll be adequately compensated, and talk to your lawyer before signing anything.

This sometimes doesn't apply to insurance companies, but to the other driver. In rare situations, you may be offered cash or a check to cover the damage after a car accident. This becomes more likely if the other driver is at fault, and they know it. The issue here comes from the thought that they will just cancel the check on you, and/or they may call the police after you have left and say you hit them and ran.

Hire an attorney if necessary

One of the best things you can do is hire an experienced attorney to help you make the best out of the situation, and to defend you during in court or during legal proceedings. Some lawyers work on contingency, so you will only pay them if you are compensated. Attorneys can be very beneficial in knowing what to do after a car accident.

In addition to contacting your insurance company, you may need to contact your state's DMV. The Department of Motor Vehicles has provided a printable form that includes information about whether or not you need to contact them. The form also contains some other useful tips. These tips will help you with what to do after a car accident.

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