To prepare for a car accident, you should carry an emergency kit in your car at all times. An emergency kit should include: a flashlight, emergency flares, basic medical supplies, and a blanket. Standard auto accident kits can often be purchased at automotive stores.
You should also have any necessary documents, such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance on hand. Always secure items in your car that may go flying and cause injury in the event of an accident.
What Steps Should You Take After an Accident?
Here are a few essential steps to follow if you have been involved in a car accident:
- Stay at the scene. Leaving the scene can result in charges of a hit and run.
- Check yourself for injuries, then check with everyone else involved in the accident to determine whether there are any injuries.
- Immediately call an ambulance if you or someone else is hurt. Even minor symptoms can be an indicator that someone needs medical attention.
- If possible, move your car to a safe place off the road.
- Put car in park and turn off engine.
- Use your vehicle’s hazard lights, warning triangles, and flares.
- Call the police first. Accurately describe the accident to the officer(s).Even if the accident is minor, this is important. A police report will be requested by your insurance company.
- Call the insurance company after you call the police. You can go ahead and get your claim filed while you are still at at the scene. An insurance agent will be assigned to your claim, and you will be in regular communication with them, so you will be able to add details later, once you have handled everything at the scene, have had time to process the accident, and have time to think and really have a conversation with the agent.
- You should contact the insurance company even with minor damage, because insurance companies will be involved in paying out for repair to vehicles, and because other drivers may try to accuse you of fault.
- Not contacting your insurance company out of a fear of an increased rate can result in more headaches than a bigger insurance bill. The other person can report it to their insurance company and immediately file their claim saying that you are at fault.
- Exchange information with other driver(s) involved in the accident. Information that will need to be exchanged with others involved in the accident includes:
- Contact information and names for each driver involved;
- License plate numbers;
- Driver’s license numbers;
- Vehicle descriptions, including make and model;
- Insurance information (company and policy number);
- Eyewitness names and contact information. Ask witnesses what they saw occur;
- Location of accident;
- Names of police responders and their badge numbers; and
- Pictures: take pictures of the vehicles involved in the accident, and the accident scene, if safe to do so.
The order of these steps may vary, and some may be impossible, depending upon the severity of the accident and of your injuries.
Following the accident, visit a doctor to ascertain whether there are any injuries that will need treatment. This is a good idea even if you feel completely well. Injuries may not be immediately apparent and can manifest later on when you can forget that you were involved in an accident.
How to Protect Against Future Liability After a Car Accident
After a car accident, you may be inclined to immediately apologize or cast blame. However, it is usually best to be as polite as possible, and to refrain from making any drastic or blaming remarks. Above all else, don’t admit fault, regardless of whether or not you believe you were at fault. Keep in mind that in many places, saying “I’m sorry” can be an admission of fault.
Also, you should avoid stating that you "feel fine" until you have thoroughly assessed your physical state. This could have a later impact on your ability to recover damages for physical injuries, which may not manifest until sometime after the accident.
Seeking Legal Help: When to Call an Attorney?
Regardless of whether you hire an attorney, you should use caution in discussing the matter. Be careful in discussing the accident with other drivers’ insurance companies, who may try to shift liability to you. Also, be cautious in accepting any settlement offers.
To address your concerns and any post-accident disputes, it may be necessary to retain your own personal attorney.
A qualified personal injury attorney may prevent you from agreeing to an inferior settlement, save you from giving up your rights, and deter the other driver’s insurance company from collecting information that could be later used against you. It is important to recover a settlement that will help you repair or replace your vehicle, and that will cover any medical costs.