Anyone who has been in a car accident knows how intense of an experience it is. Anyone that has not already should prepare themselves; a typical driver is in an accident an average of once every 10 years. Even someone who considers themselves the safest driver on the highway can’t control what other drivers do, and that’s why it’s vital to have a plan.
There are several things a person should have on their mental checklist after an accident. Below are a few of the most important things you should do in the minutes and hours after a car crash.
Make sure there are no injuries
First thing first, make sure you and any passengers you have are not badly injured. Pull your vehicle over if possible and check that the other driver is not badly injured either. If there are major injuries, call 911 immediately.
Keep the other driver at the scene
One of the most important things you should do after an accident is to keep the other driver present. You will need their statement and basic information for insurance purposes. Ask them questions, start a conversation, tell them about yourself, ask about their car; just keep them there. If they seem flighty or try to take off, note the make and model of their car and their license plate number.
When it’s clear that the other driver is not going to fly the coop, exchange names, phone numbers, insurance information – anything you, your insurance company or attorney will need to contact them again.
Call the authorities
Your next step will be to get police to the scene. This is not to arrest anyone, but rather so that they may write up an accident report. Having an accident report on the books can be critical to insurance compensation – better for your and the other drivers’ statements to be taken while the details are fresh in your minds.
Document the accident while you wait for law enforcement to arrive. If you have a mobile or smart phone, use the camera to photograph the scene of the accident, the damage it caused, injuries anyone sustained, obscuring foliage that may have caused the accident, everything. It is almost impossible to take too many photos.
See the doctor
Once the police have taken your statement and the accident has been cleaned up, go straight to the doctor whether you feel like you’ve been injured or not. Accident injuries can take hours, days or longer to manifest. You may have fractured a rib and not realize it until 3 hours later when your adrenaline wears off. Having a medical record on the books can also be important for your insurance claim.
Call an attorney
It is typically in your best interest to also contact an attorney. Your insurance company’s biggest concern is preserving their bottom line by paying as low of a settlement of possible. A legal professional will take the pressure off you and negotiate with the insurance companies to get you the greatest award possible.
Even a fender bender is intense, frightening and, honestly, aggravating. A larger scale accident will only ramp up these emotions. Having a plan is one of the best ways you can keep your cool and navigate this difficult situation.