When you’re involved in a vehicle accident, there are a few things you should do right away. Even though emotions can run rampant, most car accidents only involve property damage. One in three, however, will result in occupant injuries and sometimes these are fatal. It is important to ensure your rights are protected even while calling for help. Following these ten steps when you’ve been involved in a car accident can help protect your interests.
First, never leave the accident scene. Stay there until law enforcement arrives.
If you have flares or warning signs, set them up to help prevent another accident. Turn on your vehicle’s flashers and wait in your car until emergency responders arrive.
Always call the police. Even if no one is injured and the vehicle damage is minimal, it is important to have a police report. Your insurance company will want a copy and you may need a copy for other reasons. Unless the vehicles involved in the accident are impeding traffic, leave them where they are until law enforcement arrives.
The law enforcement officers will talk to all parties involved in the accident. Ensure you tell them exactly what happened. If you aren’t sure of certain things, tell them that as well. Do not guess, misstate or speculate. If they ask you if you are injured, tell them you aren’t sure. Never say you’re not injured because you may develop symptoms later on. Injuries sustained in a car accident often don’t display symptoms or pain until hours after the accident occurred. Check the police report to ensure the statements made by others are accurate, too.
Use your phone or a disposable camera to take photos of the vehicles involved, especially if any damage is visible. Also, take pictures of the accident scene including any debris and damage to property. If you have injuries that are visible, have someone take pictures of them. Be careful not to interfere with the law enforcement investigation of the accident, but try and take pictures as quickly as possible.
Exchange insurance information and contact information with the other driver and any passengers. Law enforcement will also need this information, so keep it handy to provide to them when they arrive. Ask for the other party’s insurance information as well. If anyone witnessed the accident, ask them for their contact information. Always ask the law enforcement officer for the number of the police report so you can get a copy.
Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Most policies require you to immediately report any accident. If you need medical treatment, let your insurance company know where you were treated. Keep copies of any bills so you can submit them to your insurance company as part of your claim.
Speaking of injuries, get medical treatment as quickly as possible. Go the closest emergency room for treatment even if you’re not sure you are injured.
Keep a file of all documentation when you’ve been in a car accident. Contact law enforcement, stay at the scene and seek medical treatment for any injuries.