NEWS 11 Things to Do After a Car Accident

11 Things to Do After a Car Accident

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 6 million car accidents occur in the United States each year. Whether you’ve been in a slight fender bend or a serious crash, you’ve probably been too shocked to think clearly, so it’s important to know yourself ahead of time. Here’s what to do on the spot and afterwards to make the claims process easier.

1. Determine if anyone is injured

Never leave the scene of an accident, even a minor one. Your first priority is safety; everything else can wait, says Rob Luna, manager of AAA’s auto claims group in Costa Mesa, California.

“Make sure everyone is okay and get medical assistance if you or someone else needs it,” Luna said.

2. Keep yourself and your vehicle out of danger

If you were not injured and the accident was minor, carefully pull your car over to the side of the road so as not to obstruct traffic. Keep your hazard lights on and set up flares or reflective emergency triangles to alert other drivers to slow down. However, if the crash is more severe or someone is injured, leave the vehicle where it is.

Even if you don’t think you were injured, use extra caution when getting out of your vehicle, especially if the accident happened on a highway or on a busy street. You may not be thinking logically and this may put you at risk.

3. Contact the police

While reporting accidents is important, in some areas police may not respond to minor collisions, Luna said.

“Some police departments are transitioning to online reporting rather than devoting resources to incident scenes,” he said.

If the police come, take note of the police officer’s name, badge number, and contact information. Be sure to get a copy of the accident report from officials. If the police do not come, you can request a copy of the report from the law enforcement office, or through the insurance adjuster who processed your claim.

4. Collect important information

Use your phone camera to take a photo of the document, or use a pen and paper to get the names, addresses, phone numbers, and driver’s license numbers of everyone involved in the accident. If the driver’s name does not match the car’s registration or insurance documents, determine the person’s relationship to the owner.

Then, collect all vehicle information, including year, make and model, color, license plate number, and VIN. Get the policy number and the company’s phone number in case the other party doesn’t report the accident, suggests Luna. See if any witnesses are willing to give you contact information and details of what they saw.

Never share your social security number, insurance policy coverage limits, or other personal information.

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5. Record the scene

Luna recommends using your smartphone’s camera, video and voice memo features to record as many details about the accident as possible.

“Check the effect on the car: is it on the front side, the driver’s side or the rear? The easiest way to do this is to take pictures of the entire car, and close-up pictures of the damage to your car and the other side.”

Record the date and time of the accident and take photographs or video of the entire accident scene, including skid marks or property damage. Make a note of the street name and direction of travel of each vehicle before and after the accident.

“One thing that is often overlooked is the position of the car [relative] to the street. This is critical information as it helps adjusters reproduce incidents when you report a claim,” says Luna.

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