On average, there are six million car accidents every year in the United States. That is over 16,000 accidents every day and almost 700 every hour. In the U.S. and across the globe, car accidents are still a leading cause of severe injury and death.
Road and weather conditions, driver error or impairment, speeding and even age can all be factors in collisions. Despite your best efforts, you can’t control the actions of the other drivers on the road. Accidents happen.
Do you know what to do in the event of a crash? What should you do first? What should you avoid doing?
The following checklist can help you be prepared, just in case.
Check for Injuries
Start with a self-check. If you have a severe injury or if you feel nauseated, disorientated or numb, call 911 or have someone else do it for you.
If you seem uninjured, next check on your passengers. Look for obvious signs of trauma and talk to your passengers directly to assess them for signs of confusion. Again, if there is evidence of injury, call 911 or have someone else do it for you.
Get to a Safe Place
If anyone seems injured, it is better not to attempt to move them unless there is an imminent risk, such as approaching traffic or a fire in the vehicle. If your car is in the middle of a high traffic area and you can move it, steer it off to the side as far as possible. If you cannot drive your car and everyone can move safely, exit the vehicle and make your way quickly to the side of the road or another safe spot away from traffic.
Turn off your engine and turn your hazard lights on before you exit the vehicle.
Never leave the accident scene unless you must attend to injuries or emergency services insist that you do so.
Call the Police
If you’ve already called 911 to report an injury, the chances are that a police unit will also be on its way. If you haven’t, you need to contact the police as soon as everyone is safe. In some states and provinces, the law requires you to call the police to an accident scene. Even where it isn’t a legal requirement, their presence can be helpful. They will fill out an accident report and talk to everyone involved. They can also be useful if, for example, the other driver was driving under the influence.
If police are unable to come, you can also go to the nearest police station and fill out an accident report in person.
Wait for Help
If you have emergency flares, use them to help direct traffic away from the scene of the crash. While you wait, speak to the other driver and begin to make mental or physical notes about the crash itself.
Admit Nothing and Do Not Make Promises
Even if you believe you may be at fault, now is not the time to confess it. You may be mistaken, or there may be other mitigating factors you are not aware of. An admission of guilt at this point could make these mitigating factors moot. It’s also essential not to make any promises to the other driver regarding the police, insurance or repairs.
Exchange Driver Information
If both drivers and passengers are uninjured, exchange information with the other driver. Some of the information you gather should include the full name and contact information and information about their insurance company and policy number. Consider taking a picture of their driver’s license so you can avoid errors, and so you’ll have the data recorded.
Do not attempt to discuss fault at this point. That can be determined by police when they arrive. Also, do not try to exchange information if it appears the other driver is either belligerent or intoxicated or under the influence in any way.
If you don’t have pen and paper handy, make notes on your phone or make a few mental notes. Include anything that might be pertinent to the accident in these notes. That should include potential witnesses. Talk to these witnesses and ask them for contact information. When police officers arrive, do the same. Also, make a note of weather conditions, especially if they could be a contributing factor.
If you can, you may wish to take pictures of both your vehicle and the other vehicle. Record the type, color and model of the other car and the location of the accident. Take a picture of the license plate. If the accident caused damage to medians or road signs, take photos of these as well.
Look around for any traffic or CCTV cameras in the vicinity that could provide footage that may be of use for evidence.
Write down precisely what happened while it is still fresh in your mind. Include the direction you were driving, which lane you were in and what both you and the other car were doing at the time of impact.
Call Your Insurance Company
While calling your insurer should not be the first thing you do, it is essential to call them as soon after the accident as possible, regardless of who is at fault. In some cases, failure to report an accident promptly can negatively affect your coverage.
Calling your insurance company does not mean that you are obligated to file a claim. However, your insurer can be a valuable source of information, whether you decide to file or not. The insurance slip in your car will have the number you need to call.
Stay Calm and Know You Can Handle The Situation
Accidents are an unfortunate part of driving, and they can be an upsetting and disconcerting experience. However, being prepared, knowing what to expect, and knowing what to do immediately after the crash can help you handle the situation.