Check for injuries
The first thing to do after a collision, even if it is minor, is to check yourself and your passengers for injury. If anyone is injured, call 911 and get medical help from first responders at the scene.
Even if you don’t immediately think that anyone has been harmed, you cannot rule out the possibility of this happening at this point. The impact from a minor accident causes an adrenaline surge that can mask in response to pain, and injuries that aren’t immediately apparent can begin to show symptoms within hours or days after a crash.
For this reason, it is important not to say things like “I am not injured” in statements to law enforcement or insurance experts until you, your passengers, and your vehicle have been fully evaluated.
Get a safe place
The first thing you do after a collision is to move yourself and your passengers to a safe place. If your vehicle is drivable and presents a potential road hazard in its current location, stop on one side of the road. If it is not safe to drive your vehicle, move yourself and your passengers to the side of the road or a nearby sidewalk.
Documenting the Incident: Gathering Photographic Evidence
After assessing potential injuries and reaching safety, begin collecting evidence of the accident. This can be important in determining who is responsible for the majority – or all – of the fault.
Make sure to get pictures of all the vehicles involved from several different angles. Include sign boards, close-up and far-away photos of any visible damage, as well as photos of the surrounding streets and scene of the accident.
If any injuries appear, it is a good idea to collect photographic evidence of them as well.
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Call 911 and file an accident report
Always call law enforcement to the scene of a car accident, no matter how small. If it is an emergency, call 911. If there are no obvious injuries and an ambulance is not needed, tell the dispatcher that he just needs to send a police officer to the scene. You may also choose to call a non-emergency service line to do so. The important thing is to get an officer on site to write an accident report.
Do not agree if the other driver makes suggestions or demands to skip this step, keep the accident off record or try to offer a monetary incentive to let him leave early. A car accident police report can protect your legal rights – both personally and with insurance companies, which are not likely to cover damages without an official report.
Sharing contact and insurance information
Quietly and professionally begin communicating business and insurance information with the other driver as soon as you are able to do so safely. You’ll want to ask for their full name, address, contact phone number, and insurance information, which includes their insurance provider’s company name, phone number, and policy number. If possible, ask for contact information for any passengers in the other vehicle in case they will need to provide recorded data at a later time.
make a statement
The law enforcement officer will need to collect statements from all drivers involved in the collision, as well as those from passengers and witnesses. Document the names of witnesses and contact information for your own records, if applicable.
Even if you feel partially or fully to blame, you should not apologize for the accident or admit any wrongdoing. The officer will investigate the scene of the accident and form his opinion about what happened based on facts and other evidence.
Once the police report is complete, ask for the officer’s name, badge number, phone number, and police report number so you can easily get the records if you need them.
Stay in the scene until the place is cleared to leave
Leaving the scene of a car accident before law enforcement arrives is a criminal offense unless your injuries require you to be transported in an ambulance for urgent medical treatment. Stay with your vehicle in all other circumstances and wait until you are fired by a law enforcement official after completing their report.
Notify your auto insurance company
Contact your car insurance company immediately and provide all the information you have documented about the accident. This is an essential step, regardless of the driver at fault, as it can protect you from potential claims against you that the other driver might make.
Note that it is not optional to contact your insurance company: auto insurance providers require policyholders to immediately report any accident involved when the event requires coverage. Every company has a certain amount of time in which this is required. Failure to report an accident – even a minor car accident – may result in the cancellation of your policy.
From here, you can start the claims process if you wish to continue recovering from any motor vehicle damages or other personal injuries.