Most of us will experience a car crash at least once in our lifetime. In fact, according to the auto insurance industry, most drivers are involved in a car crash roughly once every 18 years. And when it happens, it’s often a chaotic nightmare, especially when injuries occur.
Since car crashes are an inevitability for drivers, especially since even the most careful drivers can’t predict other drivers’ actions, it’s important to know what to do after a crash before you experience one.
Our 10-step guide covers all the key actions you need to take to protect your health and your finances after a crash.
Step 1: Get to Safety
If it is safe to do so, move your vehicle to the side of the road, out of the way of moving traffic. If it is not safe to move your vehicle, make yourself and your vehicle as visible to other drivers as possible by turning on your hazard lights and setting up flares or traffic cones around the vehicle, if you have them. Your tire repair/spare tire kit may also contain reflective triangle warning signs that can be placed around your vehicle to raise visibility.
Step 2: Assess Yourself for Injuries
You should also take this time to check on your passengers. If someone suffered a head, neck, or back injury in the crash, it is usually best to wait for first responders to arrive rather than attempt to move them yourself.
Step 3: Call 911
Calling 911 will bring emergency medical personnel to the scene to treat any injuries you, your passenger(s), or the people in the other vehicle(s) may have suffered. It will also summon police to file an accident report.
If the accident is minor, and there are no evident injuries, you can call the local non-emergency line to summon the police without also bringing an ambulance to the scene.
Do not leave the scene without speaking to the police officer first.
Step 4: Exchange Contact Information with the Other Driver
At minimum, you should get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, vehicle year, make, and model, insurance provider and policy number.
You should also collect the names of any passengers in the other vehicle.
Step 5: Collect Contact Information from Any Witnesses
If anyone witnessed the crash, make sure to get their names and contact information. Their testimony could be important evidence in determining who was at fault for the crash, which affects who can get compensation, and how much, after an auto accident.
Step 6: Take Pictures
Pictures of the accident scene are also a very important piece of evidence in proving who was at fault. Take as many pictures of the accident scene as possible, but in particular make sure to take pictures of:
- Both vehicles, including all damage, and from multiple angles
- Any other property damage caused by the crash (this includes personal property inside your vehicle that was damaged in the crash)
- Any debris in the road
- Any skid marks left on the road
- Any injuries sustained in the crash
- Anything around the scene of the accident that could have contributed to the crash (for example, ice on the road or a low-hanging tree branch obscuring a traffic sign)
Step 7: Call Your Insurance Company
Most insurance companies require you to report any accident you’ve been involved in, even if you weren’t at fault, within a very short time frame.
Tell your insurance company only the bare facts, such as when and where the accident occurred. Don’t offer up additional information that isn’t specifically requested or offer an opinion of how the crash happened. Make sure to provide your insurance representative with the insurance information you collected from the other driver.
Step 8: Get Checked Out by a Doctor
Even if you don’t believe you were injured or think your injuries are minor and will heal on their own, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you were involved in a car crash.
Many injuries you can suffer in a car crash, especially soft tissue injuries like whiplash, herniated discs, and torn ligaments, may not show symptoms until many hours or even days after you receive the injury.
Seeing a doctor gets any potential injuries diagnosed and treated right away, and acts as evidence of how and when you were injured if you decide to file a compensation claim.
Step 9: Get Quotes to Repair Your Vehicle
After an accident, your insurance company will provide you with a list of “approved” or “preferred” body shops to work with. However, you have a legal right to take your vehicle to any autobody repair shop of your choice.
You should get written estimates from at least three shops with a breakdown for parts and labor before making a decision.
Step 10: Call a Lawyer
If you were injured and the insurance company is refusing to pay a fair settlement, you will likely need a lawyer to get them to budge.
Even if you are offered a settlement right away, it is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer before accepting it. When an insurance company offers a settlement right away, it is usually because they know their policyholder is at fault and don’t want to fight it in court where they know they will likely lose. However, in these cases they will almost always offer far too small of an amount. And once a victim of a car accident accepts a settlement offer, they can’t ask for more money later, even if the settlement runs out before their medical bills do.
After an Accident, Call Catalano
Our Syracuse car accident attorneys have seen all kinds of accidents, and we know all the different tricks that insurance companies like to play. Thankfully, we’re also experienced at calculating how much money accident victims actually need to get back on their feet, and how to compile and present evidence in ways that insurance companies, and juries, can’t deny. Have you or someone you love been injured in a crash? Call our firm today for a free case review.