What To Do After a Car Accident
Luckily I’ve only been in one auto accident in my life when I was driving. I know how shaken up it can make you. The police responded to the wreck as it was bad enough and they took care of getting the information that I really should’ve gotten. I’ve been thinking lately that I’m not as prepared as I should be if it would happen again and I don’t believe the other drivers in my family are either. As such…
First Things First. If possible, leave the vehicles where they are unless they are obstructing traffic. If it is safer to do so, you may need to move the vehicles off of the roadway. Use your hazard lights to warn traffic as well as using flares, cones, triangles, and/or a flashlight. Check to see if anyone is injured. Do NOT move an injured person. If anyone is injured and/or the driver of the other vehicle appears to have been under the influence, the police must be called. If no one is injured, the damages are minor, and the vehicles are not blocking traffic, the police may not respond…however it is always best to call them.
Collect the Vital Information. Exchange names, phone numbers, insured party names (relationship and contact information), insurance company names, policy numbers, driver license numbers, VIN, and license plate numbers. Get the names, phone numbers, and addresses of any witnesses and passengers.
Document the Accident. Write a description of the other car including year, make, model, and color. Also, write down the details of the accident while they are still fresh, including the exact location (street names, landmarks, exit numbers, milepost) and events, making a diagram of the collision including where the occupants were seated. Also note the date, time, weather conditions, and visibility. Using a copy of an Accident and Insurance Report form will help to ensure you gather all of the information you need (your DMV may have a printable one on their web site). Avoid discussing the accident itself with the other party, especially where fault is concerned (and definitely do NOT sign anything for the other party).
Photograph the Scene. Take photos of the damage to all vehicles, not just your own, and of the accident scene itself including cross streets, skidmarks, and from various angles. Take photos of the sky as well and any visible weather conditions, such as snow, ice, or rain. If you do not keep a disposal camera in your car (as you should), remember that cellphones often can be used to take photos.
Take Care of the Reports. Regardless of whether the police respond to the scene and take a report, you need to check with DMV to find out if you need to file an Accident and Insurance Report with them. You have a certain amount of time to get your report filed, often within 72 hours of the automobile accident. If the police did respond to the scene and took a police report, be sure to get a copy of it.
Contact Your Insurance Provider. If possible, do this while still at the scene.
If you need a tow and you have a membership with AAA or the like, call them. If not, your insurance provider should be able to tell you if you have tow coverage if you do not know.
Your Accident Kit
The following items should always be available to you in your vehicle:
copy of Accident and Insurance Report (check with your local DMV)
medical card with any information needed should you be injured
first aid supplies
cones, warning triangles, and/or flares (in trunk)