More than 7 million motor vehicle accidents occur in the U.S. each year. That’s more than 19,000 car accidents a day.
Even if you’re a good driver, the chances that you’ll be involved in a car accident are high. Car accidents are accidents. Even good drivers make mistakes. Good drivers also suffer the consequences when other drivers don’t make good decisions.
Regardless of who is at fault, the consequences of car accidents are serious. Aside from physical damage to the vehicles, they can include physical and mental harm to you, your passengers, and the occupants of the other car. They can also include civil and criminal consequences, insurance rate increases, and restrictions on your driving privileges.
Although you can’t “undo” accidents or their consequences, you can mitigate their effects by being prepared. Taking the appropriate steps after a car accident is essential to getting back on the road and back to your life safely. Read on to learn what you should do if you’re involved in a car accident.
8 Steps to Take If You’re Involved in a Car Accident
When you’re involved in a car accident, you’re physically and emotionally shaken. You and the other driver may struggle to think clearly. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in advance. The following 8 steps will protect you, others, and your property in the event of a car accident.
1. Remain at the Scene
Ironically, the first “step” to take after an auto accident is to stay put. Resist any urge you might have to leave the scene. The legal consequences for fleeing the scene of even the smallest accident are serious and can include felony convictions and jail time.
2. Assess Your Condition and the Condition of Others Involved
The people involved in the accident are most important. Immediately after an accident, assess yourself for injuries. Then assess your passengers. If and when it is safe to exit the vehicle, check the condition of the people in the other car.
3. Call for Emergency Services
If anyone needs an ambulance, call 911 right away. If the accident is minor and no one appears injured, it’s still wise to call the police. Your insurance company may require a police report if you choose to file a claim.
4. Protect Yourself and Others from Further Harm
Accidents often happen on busy roads and in less-than-ideal conditions. No matter where the accident happened, you should immediately alert other drivers by putting your flashers on. If the accident happened at night or during bad weather, it’s also wise to protect the scene with road flares.
If the accident is minor, it’s blocking traffic, and the cars can be moved, drive them safely to the side of the road while you wait for help and exchange information. Before making this decision, however, it’s wise to take pictures of the initial scene.
5. Document the Accident
If you involve the police, they will take pictures of the scene. However, you should take your own pictures as well. Helpful images include:
- Vehicle damage
- Personal injuries
- The accident scene, especially the positions of the vehicles and road conditions
Documenting the accident also involves noting relevant factors. These include:
- Road, weather, and traffic conditions
- Make, model, and color of all vehicles involved
- Your estimated speed at the time of the accident
- Any observations you can make about the other driver, including any evidence that the driver was intoxicated or otherwise impaired
Again, the police will also gather this information for an official report. It is essential to answer their questions honestly and to the best of your ability.
If you believe that you were at fault, remember that you have the right to remain silent to protect yourself from incrimination. However, you do not have the right to lie. Under no circumstances should you fabricate details, including details where you’re unsure. Don’t guess at answers to the officer’s questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell the officer.
It’s also wise to leave open your answer to any questions regarding injuries. You may feel fine immediately after an accident. However, injuries sometimes surface hours, days, and even weeks later. Protect yourself by telling the investigating officer that, beyond your immediate safety, you are unsure of your condition.
If you have involved the police, be sure to get the name and badge number of all officers at the scene. Also ask for the police report number and find out where you can obtain a copy.
6. Exchange Information with the Other Driver and Any Witnesses
Whether you involve the police or not, you must, at minimum, gather basic information from the other driver and share the same information with them. This includes:
- Name, address, and telephone number of everyone (drivers and passengers) involved
- The insurance company and policy number of all drivers
- License plates and driver’s license numbers of all drivers
If there were any witnesses to the accident, gather their contact information as well. Also make note of the details of the accident that they can share.
7. Call Your Insurance Company
Your insurance company likely requires you to report accidents when they happen. So it’s important to contact them as soon as possible to make sure that you’ll be covered. Contacting your insurance company sooner rather than later also gets the process of recovering — your property and your own well-being — started.
8. Contact a Lawyer
Accidents happen for a variety of reasons. Many involve “fault” on the part of one driver or another. Whether you or the other driver was at fault in the accident, a lawyer can help you protect your interests in any settlement or court proceedings.
If the other driver appears to have been drinking or using drugs, these factors likely played a role in the accident, and the other driver can be held responsible in a court of law. If you were driving under the influence (DUI), a lawyer can protect your interests in these same proceedings. A DWI is a serious offense, and it requires legal assistance for all parties involved.
You may wonder, “How much does a DWI lawyer cost?” In fact, rates can vary. However, the cost of a conviction is much greater than any legal fees.
Whatever the cause of the accident or its circumstances, a lawyer can help you determine if you have a case and protect your rights.
Don’t Let an Accident Change the Course of Your Life
Accidents happen. They can be serious and have lasting consequences. You can’t always prevent them, but you can protect yourself and lessen those consequences by being prepared. Being prepared means knowing what to do when you’re involved in a car accident. The eight steps above provide a roadmap to ensure that even minor accidents don’t cause major disruptions to your life.
Use it and then check out our blog for more information to help you cruise along the road of life.