You’re driving along and suddenly the unexpected happens – you get involved in an accident. Perhaps someone else ran into your car, you ran into another vehicle, you hit a deer that jumped out from nowhere, or you ran into a parked vehicle. No matter what the situation is, when you are in a car accident, you need to know what to do next.
Car Accidents and You
Being involved in a car accident is shocking. Sometimes it takes a few moments to understand what happened and to assess the situation. Your first thought is most likely “what happened?” Your first concern will be to see if you or anyone else was injured by the collision. You get out of the car, still somewhat in shock. This could be a most dangerous moment if you are not prepared to handle this type of emergency.
All drivers should be educated in advance about what to do after a car accident. Each year across the United States, millions of motor vehicle accidents occur, with tens of thousands of fatalities. It is helpful to periodically review accident procedures, just so your response is proper when you are faced with this event.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Here are 10 important things to do after a car accident:
- Stop and Think – Assess this situation immediately. Is anyone injured? How many other vehicles are involved in this accident, and are other people in those vehicles okay? Stay calm, but move quickly to get clear of any more potential danger. Do not leave the scene.
- Call 911 – Notify the police of the accident and tell them if there are injuries. They can send out emergency medical help if needed, and they will come to the accident scene quickly.
- Document the Accident – Take photos before anything is moved, if possible. After the scene is cleared, take photos of the vehicle damage.
- Take Protective Action – Get everyone away from the roadway, so no one is hit by passing cars.
- Move Cars – If possible, move all vehicles out of traffic lanes and off the roadway. If not, call a tow truck immediately. If you hit someone else’s vehicle or property but they are not present, leave a note with you contact and insurance information. If you harmed an animal, you need to stop and give care if possible, or call for help. If the animal is a pet and died, try to determine the owner and notify them.
- Get Information – Collect all the documents and information you will need to make your accident report. You need your driver’s license and insurance policy information, and proof of financial responsibility. If the car you were driving is owned by someone else, you all will need their information. Get witness contact information and record or write down any statements they wish to make.
- Call Your Car Accident Attorney – Explain the accident and what you remember about the event. Make an appointment to consult with your legal professional.
- Contact Insurance Company – Call your agent or the company main office to report the accident and begin your claim. They will send an adjuster to view the damage and assess what they will be able to pay. Do not admit fault or make any settlements with your insurance company before you speak with your car accident attorney. If you do, you may reduce any opportunity to get an award for damages. Your attorney will fight for fair monetary compensation for your injury and damage claims.
- Car Care – Have your car towed to a body shop for repair estimates. You submit this to your insurance company for approval; they may not pay that entire amount. If repair costs are higher than the value of the vehicle, it will be declared totaled. You may have an option to buy it back or you can look to purchase another vehicle. Get all your personal items out of your vehicle before you leave it anywhere.
- Official Report to DMV – this needs to be done quickly. You can do this at a police station or the DMV website or office. There are time limits that vary by state. In California, you have 10 days to file this report, using Form SR-2. If you cannot make this report, have your insurance agent or legal representative do it for you. This is required in California for all accidents where someone is injured or killed, and when damage is $750 or more. If the accident occurred on your own property, no one was hurt or killed, or the vehicle is one that is not required to be registered, you do not need to file this report.
Reporting Car Accidents
In California, failure to report an accident can result in your license being suspended. This state also is a “fault” state, meaning that you will have many options to pursue monetary compensation for damage claims from this accident. “No fault” states have different rules for payment of damage claims. In the fault states, you can file a lawsuit to recover compensation. In no fault states, each person files for compensation from their own insurance company, no matter who was at fault for causing the accident.
When you file your report, it must include current, detailed information about your insurance coverage. Reports are cross-checked by the DMV for accuracy. You are required to have liability insurance or you may have driving privileges suspended. This report must be filed according to time limits each state sets. Your car accident attorney will help you meet all required deadlines, so you do not lose your opportunity to get fair compensation for your injury and damage claims.
In our mobile society, car accidents happen to many drivers at some time during their driving experience. Because of the constant risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident and the great costs that could result from physical, mental, emotional injuries, work loss, and vehicle damage, you need to be prepared at all times. These 10 steps to take after a car accident should put you well on the way to recovery.