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After the Crash: What to Do If You've Been in a Car Accident

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, every year 2.35 million people are injured or disabled in a car accident in the United States. The cost of car accidents costs us $230.6 billion dollars each year. 

That comes out to an average of $820 per person.

A car accident doesn't just result in physical injuries. It's also psychologically traumatic to be involved in an auto accident. 

Those who are injured or disabled in any way also have to figure out what to do after the crash. Often there are additional medical treatments to deal with. 

Then there's trying to figure out insurance and/or how to pay for everything. We want to help by sharing everything you need to do after you've been in a traffic accident. 

What to Do After the Crash

A lot of mistakes can be made immediately after the crash. Knowing what to do before can ensure the best possible outcome to a horrible event. 

Stop Your Vehicle

Make sure your vehicle isn't still moving. Then turn off your engine. 

For manual cars, set the hand brake. For automatic cars, shift it into the park.

Before you exit your vehicle, make sure it's safe to do so before you open the door. 

Make Sure No One Was Hurt

Check to make sure no one involved in the car crash is hurt. That can be anyone including:

  • You
  • The other driver(s)
  • Passengers in any vehicle
  • Pedestrians

Get Help 

If anyone has been injured, call 911. Do not move anyone who has been injured. You can cause more harm than good.

Wait for medical assistance to arrive and let them care for any injured parties. 

Call the Police

The next step, whether anyone is injured is to call the police. Even for minor accidents, you'll want the police to make an official report.

A police report will help you during the claims process with insurance. It will also help everyone involved to accurately establish who is at fault. 

Stay Safe

For minor accidents, all parties should move their vehicles out of the traffic to a safer location. You can do this by shifting into park, turning off your car, and turning on your hazard lights. 

If you have flares, cones or warning triangles, use them to provide you with an extra layer of safety. 

Do Not Admit to Anything

Even if no one reads you Miranda Rights, anything you say can and possibly will be used against you. Especially if you admit fault. 

Do not lie but let the police and insurance companies do their job. 

You should also not admit to being physically fine. You may not realize you're injured. Instead, you can decline immediate medical attention by stating you, "do not believe you require medical attention at this time."

Do Not Shout or Get Into a Dispute

Even if you're convinced that the other party is at fault, this isn't the time to point fingers. It's also not the time to let your emotions get the best of you and start shouting at the other driver. 

Instead, stick to the facts. Do not argue with anyone and try to remain calm.

Collect and Exchange Information 

Gather information from all parties involved in the accident. That includes the other driver, passengers, and even witnesses. 

Here is a list of information you should gather from the other parties:

  • Names and contact information of all drivers and passengers
  • Make, model and year of vehicles involved
  • Driver's license numbers
  • License plate number
  • Insurance company names and policy numbers
  • Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses
  • Location and/or address of where the accident occurred
  • Name and badge number of all police officer's on the scene

The time and date the accident occurred is also important to note. 

Document the Scene 

If you're able, take photos of all the vehicles involved. If it's safe, take photos of the accident scene as well. 

Many insurance companies have an app that lets you document the accident scene. Check to see if yours does and then download it to begin using it immediately. 

If yours doesn't, there are other car accident apps you can use to document everything. Most are available for IOS and Android users. 

What to Tell the Police

Whether you're at fault or not, the police are your biggest ally at this moment. It's important to truthfully and accurately provide them with information. 

Let the police officer know the direction you were headed at the time of the accident. Tell them if you used or saw anyone else use any signaling before acting. 

Stick to the Facts and Report Injuries

Report any injuries that you or those in your car experienced as a result of the collision. Injuries such as whiplash and soreness are common. You may need to follow up with a car accident doctor.

Share details of your actions leading up to and following the accident. Do not make any assumptions about the other driver and their actions. 

Never Sign Anything

Unless your insurance agent or a police officer asks you to sign something, do not do so. 

What to Share with Your Insurance Company

For minor accidents with no injuries, both drivers may opt to not file an insurance claim. Even if damages exceed your deductible, it may be less expensive in the end by not having an accident charged against your insurance. 

However, you also take a risk by not reporting it to your insurance company. If the repairs are more costly or the other party changes their story, this could result in a disaster for you. 

Always Report Accidents to Your Insurance Company

And if there are even minor injuries, always report the accident. A sore neck immediately after an accident could result in extremely expensive medical bills in the future. 

Also, if the accident wasn't your fault, your insurance rights won't go up. And some insurance companies allow for one accident before they raise their rates.  

How to Make a Claim

To make an insurance claim you'll need the following information:

  • What happened 
  • Other driver's name and contact information
  • Information for insurance

Car Accident Form

Get a car accident form from your local DMV or police station. This form has all the information collected at the scene of your accident. 

The other driver's insurance company will reach out to you at some point in order to obtain a sworn statement from you regarding the event. Your insurance company will also contact the other party involved to get their statement. 

A police report that's completed and filed with the police department gives you a legally recognized written description of the events. 

Visit a Doctor If You've Been Injured

If you were injured in the car accident, you should get your injuries checked by a medical professional. There are sometimes when an injury seems minor but is more serious than you realize.

Also, for insurance purposes, it's important to have your injuries documented by a medical health professional. If you do have injuries, you should continue following up with doctor's visits until you get a clean bill of health. 

This will make it easier for insurance companies to provide you with prompt compensation rather than having to pay for everything out of pocket. 

Keep All Documentation

If you need to seek medical health or take off days from work as a result of your injuries from the auto accident, you need to keep records of everything. 

You may need to prove that your injuries directly resulted in you having to take time off. Until everything is 100% settled, always keep a file of documents pertaining to the accident. 

What Insurance Coverage May Apply

The car insurance claims process depends on who was at fault and the types of coverage all drivers held. If you were at fault, here's what may happen:

Medical Bills for the Other Party

Your insurance company will pay medical bills for the other party up to the limits of your bodily injury liability coverage. If you live in a no-fault state, the other driver's personal injury would take effect. 

Medical Bills for Your Own Injuries

Those in no-fault states will have their PIP (personal injury protection) activated. Otherwise, the medical payments coverage works alongside your health insurance coverage.  

Repairs to the Other Driver's Car

Your property liability coverage pays for repairs. Check your policy's limit. 

Repairs to Your Car

Collision coverage pays for repairs up to your car's current actual cash value, minus the deductible. However, unless you're leasing or financing, this coverage is optional. 

Check with your insurance company to make sure you have this insurance. 

Emergency Roadside Assistance

An AAA membership is very inexpensive. And there are tons of benefits that go along with membership, including a tow to the repair shop. 

However, after an accident, emergency roadside service from your auto insurer may be cheaper. Just be aware that if you go through your auto insurance, it will count as a claim. 

Temporary transportation

Rental car reimbursement coverage is useful. It's also optional. 

If you want to add rental car reimbursement and emergency roadside service, you may also need collision and comprehensive coverage. 

Keep Up with the Latest Car News

Preventing the crash from happening in the first place is a great way to avoid ever having to deal with this problem. Keeping up to date with the latest news in cars can help you find the best and safest car for your needs. 

We can help you stay in the know. Keep browsing to catch up on our latest news articles. 

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