What To Do When You're In A Minor Car Accident
This past weekend, a good friend of mine was in a car accident. It was minor, in the sense that he walked away from it, but severe in the sense that the car is beyond totaled and he's pretty shook up about it. In talking to him, I noticed that one of the things he was most stressed about, was the fact that he didn't really know what to do after a minor car accident. The collision happened, and then he panicked. What were the proper steps?
They don't exactly prepare you in Driver's Ed for what to do when things actually go wrong. They teach you everything they can about preventing an accident, but they don't spend much time explaining what getting into an accident actually feels like and how you need to handle yourself. For instance, what do you do when you get into a fender-bender, and what dangers do you need to avoid after a collision? Because I didn't have these answers either, I did some research to figure out what car companies, insurance companies, and driving educators think is the safest and most logical thing for you to do immediately following an accident. These are the first steps to take:
Stay Where You Are
Turn on your hazard lights and check your surroundings. Even if your car is seemingly unscathed, don't flee the scene. You can move the car over to the side of the road where it's not obstructing traffic or putting you in a dangerous position, do so, but don't go far. Legally, you're obligated to stick around on the scene. If you leave, you might face hit-and-run penalties.
Take A Deep Breath
Before you panic, take a minute to assess the situation. Are you in pain? Is the car in a hazardous position? Is the collision complete or is the car still in motion? The next few moments are going to be stressful so make sure you're as centered as possible, and make sure you check the road before you leave the vehicle to make sure there aren't any cars coming. It's OK to be upset, but try not to pull it together so you can get through the next steps with a clear head.
Make Sure Everyone Is OK
Dial 911 before you do anything or touch anyone. If you move someone who has a back or neck injury, you might only exacerbate it. So unless there is a hazard like extreme weather, smoke, fire, water, or chemicals, leave it to the medical professionals to help people who are in pain out of the car.
Turn Off The Car And Get Out
If you can safely get out of your car, you're going to want to do that as quick as possible. And if the engine is still running, turn it off. Look both ways before exiting your car, and use your hands if you have to make gestures to let oncoming traffic know to slow down.
If it's safe to get out of your car, bring the other driver involved your car insurance information and take down theirs. Make sure you get their full name, phone number, and even an email address if possible. You'll need all of this later when you file a claim with your insurance company.
Don't wait until the last minute to do this, every fresh detail counts. You'll need pictures to help both of your car insurance companies know how to handle the situation. Take pictures of your car, the other car involved, any injuries you have, any obstacles in the road and the area you're in. Feel free to take video footage too, with narrations. Sometimes stress causes people to forget details so make sure you record everything you recall in case you forget or things get foggy later on.
Get A Police Report
When the police get to the scene, make sure you request a police report and write down the officer's badge information and name. This will all be helpful for your car insurance claim being sorted out. It's also good to have on file so keep it in a safe place.
File An Insurance Claim
You'll want to call your insurance company ASAP and file a claim with them. The quicker you do this, the better. Tell them everything you remember. They will give you a directions for submitting other pieces of evidence like photos, videos or witness statements.
Keep Up On It!
Make sure you keep track any medical records that you acquire as a result of the incident. Follow up with your insurance company and make sure you don't leave loose ends.