Accidents are an unavoidable part of life. No matter how much we try or want to avoid them, we simply can’t. The only thing you can do is try and minimize the effects an accident might cause, and be prepared to take the proper action once the accident occurs. So, to help with that, here are seven steps you should take immediately following an automobile accident.
1) Determine the extent of damages and injuries
The most important thing following any accident is to determine injuries, and if anyone needs immediate assistance or aid. Auto accidents are dangerous, and it’s important to assess the health of everyone involved immediately preceding an accident and respond appropriately.
Try and stay calm throughout this process. Panic is infectious and unhelpful, and will only hinder the entire process. If the damages are fairly minor it’s important to get all vehicles involved off to the side of the road. Leaving cars stopped in the middle of a road or intersection can cause further risk of accident and injury.
2) Alert the authorities
Once the vehicles are out of the way of further harm, or if the damages are too severe to move one of the cars, make sure the authorities have been alerted. Typically a witness will have called before one of the motorists has the chance, but always make sure they’ve been alerted. Don’t assume someone else will take charge.
3) Exchange information
If neither of you needs immediate medical attention, now is the time to exchange information. You need to swap names, address, phone number, email, insurance providers, policy numbers, driver license numbers and license plate numbers. If the driver isn’t the owner of the car, take note of their relationship with the car owner and get the address and phone of the car owner as well.
4) Document the Events
Write down as clearly and succinctly as possible what transpired. Get the make, year and model of both cars. Include where the accident happened, and your version of events. Next, get the contact information from anyone who witnessed the event. Also, date and sign the document, preferably in front of a witness.
5) Record the Damages
Document the damages as best you can. Hopefully you have a camera or can take pictures on a smartphone. Take as many pictures as you can, from various angles. Record all damage extensively. If there are no cameras available, write down a report of the damages. It is extremely important to have extensive proof of all damages. Make sure to do this for both cars.
6) File a Report with the Police
No matter how minor the accident, a report needs to be filed with the police. This is extremely important. If you fail to file the proper report with police when the accident transpires, you can later be held completely accountable for all damages.
No matter how trustworthy the other person seems it is necessary to document the accident with the police, for all parties involved. This prevents any fraud or misunderstandings later.
7) Contact your Insurance Agent
The sooner you contact your insurance agent, the better. If at possible, do it while on scene with the police still present. This will help you accurately report the facts of the accident to your insurance agent, and strengthen your claim down the road.
It is extremely important to be entirely honest throughout the complete process. Don’t exaggerate or fabricate. Try and stay calm and cool, taking deep breaths. Accidents are an unfortunate event, and are only worsened with panic and anger.
Finally, do not admit fault in the heat of the moment. After an accident people commonly feel the need to apologize, even if the fault was not theirs. Resist this urge, as it can have serious legal and financial consequences later down the road. Wait until everyone has calmed down and you’ve spoken with both the police and your insurance agent….and don’t be afraid to contact an auto accident lawyer either.
You can’t undue an accident, but you can protect yourself. Safe driving.