The most important things to do after a car accident are to stay calm, call 911 if anyone is injured and keep everyone away from oncoming traffic. Once everyone is safe, gather information for an insurance claim, including the other driver’s insurance details, witness contact info, and photos of the scene.
What to Do After a Car Accident
It may go without saying, but don’t panic. A calm demeanor will make it easier to think straight and may help avoid a potential conflict with other motorists.
If the damage is minor and you can safely move the vehicles, it is probably best to move them off the road. Otherwise, turn on hazard lights and set up warning triangles or flares if you have them.
If there are no injuries, make sure everyone gets off the road and stays away from traffic. But if someone is seriously injured, don’t move them unless they’re in immediate danger where they are.
State laws require that you call the police if anyone is injured or if property damage exceeds a certain threshold. You may also need a police report when you file your insurance claim. If you need to, be politely persistent with the other driver and the police officer that you would like a written statement. Write down the following information:
- The officer’s name
- The officer’s badge number
- The officer’s phone number
- The police report number
If there are willing witnesses, ask them for their contact information and if they can wait for the police to arrive. If the accident occurred on private property, like a parking lot, ask security or a manager to make a statement. You want to have a neutral third-party account of the incident if at all possible.
Don’t apologize for a driving mistake you may have made. Also, avoid accepting any immediate compensation from the other driver or promising not to involve insurance, since you don’t know the full extent of the damage or injuries. Don’t sign any documents unless they are for the police or your own insurance company, either.
Use your cell phone camera to take photos of the vehicles, the accident scene and any injuries. While it is still fresh in your mind, write down the details of the accident as you remember them.
Make sure to get the other driver’s name and insurance information. The other driver may request personal details such as your home address, phone number and driver’s license number, but given the risk of identity theft, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners now advises that you only provide what is required by state law. In nearly all cases that means only the information on your insurance card:
- Your full name
- Insurance company
- Policy number
- The phone number for your insurance company
If the other driver insists that you provide more information, remain calm and wait for the police to arrive. Again, small talk may help.
You are not required to call your insurance company from the scene, but you’ll need to do so soon if there will be any claims or if there are any injuries.
Video: What to Do After a Car Accident
Ask the Experts
To gain more insight about what to do after a car accident, WalletHub posed the following questions to a panel of experts. Click on the experts below to view their bios and answers.
- Should a driver always report an accident to their insurance company, regardless of the scale?
- What is the most important thing to remember after getting in a car accident?
- Should a driver consider switching car insurance companies after an accident?
- Do you have any advice for dealing with insurance companies after a car accident, based on personal experience?