According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are over six million car accidents in the United States every year. Fortunately, most only result in property damage, which is damage to the car rather than the occupants. However, one in every three accidents results in bodily injuries to the driver or passengers. Two in every ten results in fatal injuries. No matter how mild or severe an accident is, here’s what to do after you get into a car accident.
1. Look for Injuries and Move to a Safe Spot
The first thing on our list of what to do after you get into a car accident is to immediately check whether anyone is hurt. If so, dial 911 to get police and an ambulance on the scene. In certain states, calling the police is required by law, regardless of how small the incident was or how cooperative the other motorist was. Additionally, you’ll have an official report to present to your insurance provider, which it will probably request.
Get the affected cars off the main road or to the shoulder and switch on the hazard lights if they’re still operational. To avoid being hit by oncoming vehicles, pull off the road completely. Set up reflective emergency flares or triangles to alert other motorists. If there’s an explosion threat, get everyone out of the car and to a secure location away from the road.
2. Gather Crucial Information
Gathering pertinent information is the next step in what to do after you get into a car accident. Take pictures of any important documents using your phone, or note the name, phone number, address, and driver’s license numbers of those involved in the accident using pen and paper. If the driver isn’t the owner of the vehicle, determine the person’s link to the car’s owner. Next, compile all relevant vehicle information, such as the year, model, make, license plate number, color, and VIN.
In case the other party doesn’t report the collision, get the insurance policy number and the phone number of the company. Ask any witnesses if they’re willing to give you their contact information and descriptions of what they saw. Never divulge your Social Security Number, the scope of your insurance policy’s coverage, or any other personal information.
When discussing the details with the other motorist, avoid assigning fault. When you file a claim with your insurance, the adjuster reviewing your claim will decide who was at fault by inspecting the vehicles, any property damage, the information provided by the parties involved in the accident, and any supporting documentation, such as photographs or the police report taken at the scene
3. Document the Accident
Documenting an accident is an important step in what to do after you get into a car accident. To protect yourself, you need to document the accident. You should start by identifying the officers. Get the name and badge number of each responding officer as they arrive at the scene. Ask them where you can get a copy of the police report regarding the accident. When you submit a claim for auto insurance, your insurer may request a copy of the report. Don’t forget to take photos. Get your smartphone or camera out and take pictures of your car from different angles, and make sure you’ve captured any damage to the accident cars and property.
If an accident happens in your compound, property damage may include damage to the garage door, barrier cable systems, or exterior AC units. Taking images of the license plate of the other vehicle is also a great idea. During the claims process, you may be required to provide photos of the insurance company to argue your compensation claim. Next, record names. Include any passengers in the other car when noting the names and addresses of everyone involved. Note down the names and contact details of witnesses to the accident, if there were any.
4. Notify Your Insurance Provider and Begin the Claims Process
Notifying your auto liability insurance provider is a key step in what to do after you get into a car accident. If your insurance company has a mobile app, use it to file a claim while you’re still on the scene. By doing so, they’ll be able to explain in detail what they’ll need to do to handle your claim and what to anticipate during the claims process. If your car is damaged, your insurance company can arrange to have it hauled to a licensed body shop.
Even drivers with extensive experience can become anxious after an accident, but taking these precautions can reduce your worry. Concentrate on coordinating smooth and speedy auto repairs for your car with your insurance provider. Repairs may be as simple as AC repair or as complicated as an engine repair. After reporting an accident, stay in touch with your insurance provider. Keep all the documentation pertaining to the accident organized while your adjuster works to process your claim to cover any type of auto repair that was needed.
5. Call a Tow Truck Service if Needed
Calling a tow truck service should be on your list of what to do after you get into a car accident. You may need to have your car towed to a collision repair facility, depending on the extent of the damage. Most car owners have motor club memberships, and one of the perks is roadside assistance. The police may also get a tow truck for your car, and several auto manufacturers also provide driver-assistance programs. Never trust tow truck rentals that just appear at the accident; always verify their qualifications and save all contact information.
6. See a Doctor
Visiting a doctor is one of the most important steps in what to do after you get into a car accident. Injuries from auto accidents often take time to manifest. Most people state that they experience the most pain a day or two after an auto accident. Unless you’re absolutely positive you weren’t hurt, seek medical assistance at your neighborhood emergency department or by visiting your family doctor. Even minor accidents involving a slight impact can permanently damage your spinal cord. If you briefly lost consciousness following the incident, you may have had a closed head injury or concussion. If left untreated, this may result in cognitive and behavioral problems.
7. Keep a File
Organize all of your accident-related paperwork and information. The information should include the claim number, the claim’s adjuster details, the names and phone numbers of everyone involved, receipts for renting a car, and other expenses attributed to the accident.
8. Protect Your Rights
Protecting your rights by consulting a car wreck lawyer is perhaps the most important step in what to do after you get into a car accident. Your attorney will protect your rights and ensure that important evidence isn’t tampered with. Insurance companies often take statements right after an accident. Receiving legal counsel before recording a statement is important. An attorney can advise you on anything from how to ensure you receive the finest medical care possible, to how to make sure you’re adequately reimbursed for your car. Most personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning there’s no fee unless you receive compensation for your injuries.
To ensure you’re working with the right attorney, choose one:
- With extensive experience in car accident cases and claims
- With a long list of credentials
- Who offers a free consultation?
- Who’s friendly
Once you’ve hired a lawyer, there are certain questions you should ask. These include:
- What do you think about my case?
- What is the likelihood that I’ll receive a settlement or judgment, in your opinion?
- How much can I actually anticipate receiving?
- Do you think a trial will be necessary?
- Do you think mediation or arbitration would be more effective?
- How long do you expect the case to take?
- What elements are in our favor or against us?
Keep in mind that you need legal representation even if you’re not pursuing compensation.
9. Notify the DMV
Notifying the DMV should also be on your list of what to do after you get into a car accident. You might need to report the collision to the department of motor vehicles (DMV), depending on where you reside and the extent of the accident. Every state has its criteria. In California, for instance, you’re required to notify the DMV of an accident within ten days if any person’s property incurred over $1000 in damages, or if someone is killed or injured. To find out the reporting requirements in your state, contact the DMV.
10. Cooperate With Your Auto Insurance Company
Typically, you’re obligated to cooperate with your auto insurance company during an investigation into the details of the accident. Truthfully respond to their queries and provide any evidence or information you gathered following the accident. However, consult an attorney if you believe your auto insurance provider is wrongly rejecting your claim, or if you believe you may be legally responsible for the accident.
While you’ll probably still need to respond to the insurance company’s inquiries, car accident attorneys can offer valuable advice so you don’t say anything that might later cause you more serious issues. A lawyer can also help you determine whether you have grounds for an insurance company’s ‘bad faith’ claim.
11. Get Car Detailing Done
A car accident can result in significant damage to your vehicle. When looking for auto detailing companies, locate an auto body shop that excels in accident repair. Since most car accidents result in scratches, dents, and other body damage, these companies mainly focus on exterior detailing. Go for a reputable auto detailer who offers a variety of exterior body services. These include dent and surface repair, claying, painting, washing and drying, polishing, and sealing. In some cases, surface repairs may involve metal fabrication.
How Insurance Pays Out Following An Accident
After a car accident, the outcome of the insurance claims procedure will depend on who is found at fault and the coverage you and the other motorist have. If another driver is found to be at fault, and you’re not a passenger in their car, their auto insurance will cover the damage to your car up to the property damage liability limits described in their policy. It will also cover your medical bills up to the bodily injury liability limit of their cover.
Certain states are known as ‘no-fault’ states. If you reside in one of these, the personal injury protection of your policy will pay for your medical bills. Having uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage under your insurance policy is a splendid idea. It will kick in if the other driver doesn’t have insurance or adequate insurance to cover all of your expenses.
If you’re found to be at fault, your insurance will cover medical expenses for injuries suffered by the other car’s driver and their passengers up to the limit of the policy’s bodily injury coverage, but not for injuries to you or your passengers. If the accident happened in a no-fault state, the no-fault insurance of the other driver would cover their medical expenses. Your insurance will also cover damage to the vehicle of the other driver up to your property damage liability policy limits.
If you have comprehensive and collision insurance, damage to your vehicle will also be covered. After you’ve paid your deductible, your automobile is covered up to its present market value. Your post-crash medical bills, up to your medical payments or PIP coverage limits, will also be covered. Further medical costs you and your passengers accrue after that will need you to work with your personal health insurance. If the other driver’s vehicle has to be in the shop, your insurance may also cover the cost of a rental car for them.
Your auto insurance premiums may drastically increase following an accident. According to a recent NerdWallet survey, the average annual increase in car insurance costs following an accident is 51%. Some insurance providers offer accident forgiveness, which shields customers from paying more because of an incident in which they were at fault. If you’re concerned your rates may rise following a collision, look around and compare quotes from other insurance providers to get affordable auto insurance.
The following optional coverage categories could be helpful following an accident if your insurance policy covers them:
- Emergency roadside assistance coverage will be helpful if your car needs to be towed to the repair shop
- Rental car reimbursement coverage will cover a rental as your vehicle is in the repair shop, whether you’re found to be at fault or not
The period and processes involved after an accident can be overwhelming. In this read, we’ve looked at what to do after you get into a car accident to help you maneuver the process. From what to do as soon as the accident happens to finally getting your car fixed (whether that means HVAC repairs or extensive body repairs), we’ve got you covered.