If you spend enough time behind the wheel of a car, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to be involved in a car accident sooner or later.
There are more than 6 million car accidents that take place in the U.S. every year. And studies have shown that the average driver will get into an accident about once every 18 years. That means that the typical American gets into three or four accidents throughout the course of their lives.
But despite the prevalence of car accidents, it can still be a real shock to your system when you’re involved in one. Drivers who are involved in accidents are often unsure of exactly what to do following a crash.
Here are the 12 things that you should do right away if you’re ever involved in a car accident, regardless of how minor or major it might be.
1. Figure Out If You’ve Been Injured
The first thing you should do in the immediate aftermath of a car accident is try to figure out if you were injured in the crash.
If the accident was relatively minor, you might know right away whether or not you were hurt. But if you were involved in a more serious accident, it could take you a few extra seconds to process what happened. You may not realize you broke a bone in your foot or leg until you start to move.
Take inventory of all your various body parts and see how they feel. You don’t want to go jumping out of the car if you sustained a serious injury during the crash.
2. Check On the Condition of Your Passengers
In addition to trying to figure out if you were injured in the car accident, you should also check on the condition of the passengers who were in your car at the time of the crash.
If someone was riding in the passenger’s seat, look over at them and ask them how they’re doing. See if they sustained any injuries in the accident that will require immediate medical attention.
Do the same thing if you had people riding in your backseat when you were involved in the accident. Turn back and give them a once-over to see if you can spot any obvious signs of injuries.
Ideally, everyone will have survived the crash without sustaining serious injuries. But if it was a particularly bad accident, there will probably be at least a few bumps and bruises that will require a trip to the local hospital.
3. Climb Out of the Car and Get Yourself to Safety
Does it look like everyone who was riding in your vehicle when the accident occurred is OK? If so, the next thing you’re going to need to do is climb out of the car and move away from it.
If the accident took place on a very busy road, you and any passengers who were in your vehicle will need to be extremely careful when exiting the car. You should move slowly but methodically to get yourselves to safety. Run to the side of the road or the median and take yourself out of harm’s way.
4. See If the Other Driver Was Injured in the Crash
Once you’re able to climb out of your car and get yourself to safety, you might be tempted to start analyzing the condition of your car. It’s natural to want to see how bad the damage is.
But before you get too wrapped up in doing that, you should check on the condition of the other driver (or drivers) that were involved in the crash. There’s a chance they might need medical attention right away.
5. Call 911
Often times, people who witness a car accident out on the road will pull over and call 911 immediately. So someone may have spotted your crash and called 911 for you already.
But don’t bank on it. You should also take out your cell phone and call 911 to report the accident that just took place. You’ll have to provide a 911 operator with your location, so look around to see if you can find out exactly where you are.
If someone was injured in the accident, you should stress the importance of sending paramedics out to the scene right away. Otherwise, the 911 operator will likely just send a police officer to assist you.
6. Assess the Damage Done to Your Car
While you stand around and wait for the police/paramedics to arrive on the scene, you can take a few minutes to assess the damage that was done to your car in the crash.
If you’re able to safely get to your car, you should walk around the perimeter of it and gauge how extensive the damage is. Just keep in mind that there could be all kinds of damage done to your car that you can’t necessarily see.
7. Provide Police with a Statement About the Accident
Within a few minutes, police should show up on the scene and ask to speak with those who were involved in the car accident. They’ll take statements from drivers, passengers, and any eyewitnesses who were in the area.
Tell the police officer who speaks with you exactly what you remember about the accident. You should never, under any circumstances, take the blame for the accident, even if you believe you were at fault. Instead, stick to talking about what happened during the crash from your vantage point.
8. Take Photos of the Accident Scene
At some point after your accident, you should pull out your smartphone and take a photo of the scene. You should take pictures of both your vehicle and any other vehicles involved in the accident.
Additionally, you should take photos of your other surroundings and of any other potential evidence in the area. You might not ever need the photos that you take. But it never hurts to have them.
9. Exchange Insurance Information With the Other Driver
In addition to taking a statement from you, police will also ask you to provide them with your auto insurance information. Have it ready to go when they arrive so that you don’t have to scramble around for it.
Once they’re done with your insurance card, go over to the other driver involved in the accident and exchange insurance information with them. Technically, your auto insurance company could obtain this information later. But you can start processing an insurance claim more quickly if you get the information right away.
10. Call Your Car Insurance Company
After you’re armed with the other driver’s auto insurance information, you should reach out to your car insurance company and let them know you were involved in an accident.
They’ll ask you a series of questions about the crash. They’ll also ask you to provide them with your fellow driver’s insurance info. And, maybe most importantly, they’ll let you know what steps you’re going to need to take next to get your car repaired.
11. Arrange to Have Your Car Towed, If Necessary
If the car accident that you were involved in was on the minor side, you might be able to drive your vehicle away from the scene.
But if your car is in bad shape following an accident, it’s best to have it towed to a nearby auto repair shop. Your car insurance company can likely handle the logistics of having the car towed to the right shop.
The police may also step in and contact a tow truck for you so that they can clean up the accident scene. Whatever the case, you should make sure your car is towed away before you go anywhere.
12. Find a Good Lawyer in Your Area
At this point, you’re likely exhausted from everything that has taken part thus far. But don’t forget the most important thing that you need to do following a car crash: call a lawyer.
A lawyer can help you in a variety of ways in the aftermath of a car accident. They can get your auto insurance company to take care of your car repair bills as well as any medical bills for you, your passengers, or the other driver. They can also represent you in court if police determine that you were at fault for the accident.
There are way too many people who attempt to represent themselves in accident cases and pay the price for doing it. You should view here to see why that’s not a good idea at all.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Panic After a Car Accident!
When you’re involved in a car accident, your first instinct is going to be to panic. You’re going to have a shot of adrenaline running through you that’s going to make it hard to think.
Do your best not to lose your cool. By gathering yourself and following the steps listed here, you can make it out of a car crash relatively unscathed. You can also make sure you’re protected in the event that you have to make a court appearance.
Would you like to avoid getting into more car crashes in the future? Take a look at our blog to see some things that will make your car safer.