According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle accidents occur in any part of the world every 60 seconds. Basically this means that there are around 5.25 million driving accidents that take place every year. Unfortunately, with these statistics, there may come a time when you are involved in an auto accident. If it is your first, you may not know what to do.
Here are 11 steps to take if you are involved in an auto accident:
1. Stay calm
It is easy to get worked up after an accident. Take a deep breath and center your thoughts, and proceed with the next steps.
2. If you can, move to a safe area
If it is safe for you to do so, and neither you or one of your passengers are seriously injured, move your vehicle out of harm’s way. Try and get as far off to the side of the road as possible. If you cannot move your vehicle, turn on your hazard lights so people driving by will know that your car isn’t going to be moving any time soon. Remember, never leave the scene of an accident.
3. Stop your car and get out
Make sure you are safely in park and shut off the engine. Look around to make sure it is safe to step out of your vehicle before opening the door. At this time, you should set out any flares or safety cones that you may have.
4. Check on all parties involved
Check on all people involved in the accident from your vehicle and any other vehicle’s that were involved. If anyone appears injured, call 911. Even symptoms that seem mild, such as dizziness, should be looked over by a health care professional.
5. Have the police come to the scene
It is a good idea to try and have a police report even in a minor accident. Police accident reports are invaluable when it comes to dealing with other drivers and insurance companies. Be sure to cooperate fully with the officer(s) at your scene, but also make sure to avoid admitting fault or blaming others. If you are asked if you are injured and you are not sure, say you are not sure, rather than no. Let the police judge the events and evidence objectively while they try and determine who, if anyone, is at fault for the accident. If there are no injuries, sometimes the police will not be able to make it to the scene. If this is the case, you can file an accident report through the DMV.
6. Collect information
In the aftermath of an accident it is important to collect as much information as possible. This includes:
- Insurance info
- License plate numbers
- Driver and passenger names
- Contact info of any eyewitnesses
- Makes and models of all vehicles involved
- Location of the accident
- The badge number and name of responding police officers
7.Take photos of the scene
Photo documentation will come in handy during an insurance claim process. If you have a smart phone or camera don’t be shy, take pictures of the scene. Photograph any visible injuries you or your passengers may have as well. Make sure you are not getting in the way of any ongoing police investigation while you photograph the scene.
8. File a claim with your insurance company
With the photos, police report, and information you gathered in hand, call your insurance company to begin the claims process.
9. Seek medical attention
Injuries from auto accidents are often not immediately apparent. Some people may not notice any pain until a day or two has passed. Unless you are absolutely certain you were not injured, you should seek medical attention by seeing your family physician or at your local emergency room or urgent care.
10. Keep records
Keep all your accident-related information and documents together in a file. This information should include:
- All the info you gathered at the scene
- Any medical reports
- A claim number
- The name of the claim’s adjuster handling your claim
- Rental car receipts
- Receipts and records of all other expenses incurred as a result of the accident
11. Consult with a lawyer (Optional)
Some people would rather deal with the process on their own, but it is never a bad idea to seek a lawyers help. Ury & Moscow Attorneys and Counselors at Law state that, “Your attorney can protect your rights and make sure valuable evidence is not destroyed. Often, insurance companies want to take statements immediately after an accident. It is important that you have received legal advice before providing such a statement. Your attorney can advise you on issues ranging from how to make sure you are fully compensated for your vehicle to how to make sure you are getting the best medical treatment available. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no legal fee unless the attorney recovers compensation for your injuries.”
The weeks, and sometimes months following an auto accident can be very stressful. Following the above steps will hopefully ease some of the strain.