Chances are, you’ll have a multitude of pressing questions if you get into a car accident, and they’ll hit you all at once. You won’t know whether you should call the police, an ambulance, your insurance company or a lawyer right away. You’ll have tons of thoughts running through your mind, and your emotions will be scattered as well.
Naturally, car accidents are stressful situations. But there is a protocol when you get into a car accident, and it’s important to follow it. Whether the incident was your fault or not, it’s important to take the following steps so that you can ensure the safety of yourself and others no matter what. These steps will also help you have adequate documentation of the accident if any incidents or complications with the law, injuries or insurance happen down the line.
Immediate steps to follow if you’ve been in a car accident
1) Assess safety
The first thing that you’ll want to do if you get in a car accident is make sure that you are physically safe and that those who are passengers in your car are safe as well. Assess your body physically first. Shock will have set in, so you may not physically feel anything. You’ll need to actually look in the mirror to check for blood, scrapes, bruises and cuts on your face and neck. Slowly, move your head, neck and back to check for a spinal injury. Examine your legs and arms carefully, and look closely at your hands and fingers. Call out the names of the passengers in your car to make sure that they are okay.
If you or anyone else in your car has a serious injury, it’s important that you call an ambulance right away. If you can call yourself, dial 911 and explain your location and the situation to the operator who responds. If you cannot call 911 yourself, ask a bystander or someone else who is physically okay in your car to call for you. If you are able, check the driver and passengers in the other car as well. If they are unconscious or if they’ve sustained serious injuries, call 911 right away.
2) Contact the police
If you have a serious injury and call 911, the police will also immediately respond, but if you don’t need to call for an ambulance, you’ll need to make a special call to the police to report the accident. Sometimes the police will arrive from a bystander’s call or because they see you on the side of the road. But in general, it’s good practice to just call yourself as soon as you can. Again, explain your location and what happened in the accident. From this point, wait in your car for the police to arrive. While you are waiting, contact your insurance company as well.
3) Take pictures of the accident and injuries
If you have your smartphone with you or a camera, you’ll want to take as many pictures as possible of the scene. It is your right to take pictures of the accident, the location, injuries that you’ve sustained or injuries that anyone else has sustained. These pictures may become useful later down the line.
4) Get information from witnesses and the police
Bystanders and witnesses who saw the accident may be able to help you if issues regarding insurance, settlements or the law become problems down the line. As a general rule, it is wise to get reports from bystanders for this reason. Use your smart phone recorder or a paper and pencil to get accounts of what people say about what happened. No matter who you speak to, make sure to get their full names and phone numbers. Record this next to the information that they give you.
You should also get the full names and badge numbers of the police officers who arrive on the scene. Once they are finished with their police report, get a copy of this information as well.
5) Exchange information with the other driver
You will also need to exchange personal information with the other driver. Get their full name, home address, phone number and insurance information, including their policy number.
Car accidents are never pleasant experiences, but you can save yourself down the line by taking the steps listed above. If you require additional help, a lawyer may be of assistance.