Car accidents are certainly unpleasant, but you need to be prepared for them, because the odds are that just about everyone will be involved in an accident at some point. In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, what’s important is checking yourself and your passengers for visible injuries, and then getting your car to the side of the road if possible.
Once the accident scene is secure, here are the five most important steps you should take to get everything resolved smoothly.
1. Get the Other Driver’s Information
Regardless of who was at fault, you and any other drivers involved need to exchange information. The best way to handle this is to call the police and report the accident, which is required in many states. If the police come to the scene, they can gather and exchange information for everyone involved.
If you and the other driver are exchanging information on your own, only let them copy down what’s necessary by law in your state. This is typically your name, driver’s license number and insurance information, although it could include some other pieces of info. Scam artists often see accidents as an opportunity to commit identity theft, which means you should avoid leaving anyone alone with your license or other important documents.
2. Notify Your Insurance Carrier
It’s best to file a claim with your insurance carrier as soon as possible after an accident. The sooner you do, the sooner you can have any necessary repairs done on your car. If it’s debatable which driver was at fault, you also want your insurance adjuster to have plenty of time to research what happened.
Another reason to notify your insurance carrier early on is because this is when the incident will be freshest in your memory. If you wait a day or two to file your claim, you may have forgotten certain details of the accident already.
3. Visit a Doctor for a Checkup
Even a minor traffic collision can cause injuries, and injuries aren’t always easy to spot. Sometimes you can suffer an injury to the head, back or neck without any symptoms that are immediately apparent.
To ensure you’re alright, you should visit a doctor shortly after your accident. If you’re injured, they’ll come up with a treatment plan for you. They will also note your injuries in their medical report, which will be useful to have for your insurance claim.
4. Gather Any Evidence You Can Find
Never assume that it’s going to be an open-and-shut case in proving the other driver was at fault. Many drivers have thought that, only to see it go the other way.
While your insurance adjuster will be conducting research, if you can gather evidence, that could be a huge help. At the scene of the accident, see if there are any witnesses, and if so, get their contact information. Look for anywhere there could be a camera nearby, such as a traffic light or a business right next to the scene of the accident. Of course, if you have a dash cam, you should review the footage and send it to your insurance if it supports your claim.
5. Watch What You Say
One of the ways drivers sink their claims is by saying too much. This could be as simple as apologizing to the other driver at the scene of the accident. Or, you could make the all-too-common mistake of giving a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance adjuster.
You’re never legally required to give the other driver’s insurance a recorded statement about what happened, and it will never help your claim, because they’re working against you. Decline any of their statement requests, and consider consulting an accident attorney to help you make the right moves with your claim.
What you do after a car accident plays a major role in recovering from any injuries and getting the best resolution for yourself financially. When in doubt, stick to the steps above to get through the accident and claims process.