What To Do After a Car Crash

Car accidents happen every single day of the year. It might not seem like they’re that big of an occurrence. That is, outside of the time spent crawling in traffic when there’s a wreck. But the total number of accidents accumulate to a shocking six million every year. And those stats are only for the United States. You can imagine how many worldwide accidents happen each year. That is a lot of people wondering what to do after a car crash. 

Of the accidents that take place in the U.S, most only involve property damage. But one-third of those accidents result in personal injuries. And one-fifth of those accidents are fatal.

You might be among the lucky few who are never in a car crash. But odds are, you’ll be in a car accident at some point in your life. And if you are, there are several important things to do. In this article, we’re going to discuss what to do in an accident. Following the outlined steps will protect you as you go through the claims process. 

#1 Stop

We can’t express how important it is to stop. Stay at the scene of the accident and call 9-1-1. Serious repercussions can follow if you leave the accident scene too soon. The more property damage or physical injury, the worse it looks for you. How serious can it get? You could end up in jail with hit and run charges.

Does that seem extreme? Imagine another driver injuring you. How would you feel if the driver took off? You’d be pretty angry! Treat any accident this way, regardless of fault. The only time it’s ever okay to leave the accident scene is after the police have arrived. But even then, talk to the authorities first. Don’t leave until they tell you it’s okay to do so. Once you’ve received the okay to leave, you’re safe to do so. 

#2 Protect the Accident Scene

It is common for a car accident to cause another accident. It happens all the time. But, even though it happens a lot, it’s preventable. Take the following steps after a car crash. 

  • Put out flares to alert drivers from a distance. They’ll know to avoid the accident scene. 
  • Keep your car’s flashers on. This alerts drivers to go around you. We recommend both flares and flashers. But if you don’t have flares, then leaving your flashers on is the next best thing.
  • Keep a flashlight in your glove compartment. If the accident happens at night, you’ll want to use the flashlight to see the other driver. Most smartphones have flashlights on them. So, if you don’t have a physical flashlight with you, you should still be able to see.
  • Did your accident happen in the middle of the road? It sucks, but it’s okay if you can’t move your vehicle. Just make sure you move yourself. Your vehicle is replaceable. But you are irreplaceable.

#3 Call Law Enforcement

It doesn’t matter what kind of accident you were in. Maybe it was a minor fender bender. Perhaps it was a T-bone or sideswipe accident. You could have backed into someone in a parking lot. No matter what, call the police. Having an official report of what happened can be a game changer in the claims process. Your insurance company and claims adjuster will use this for your settlement process.

We recommend leaving everything where it is after a car crash until the police arrive. They’ll examine where your cars are. They’ll look for tire tread marks and skid marks. They’ll look at vehicular damage. After examining everything, they’ll fill out a report.

Remember, it’s very important to stay at the scene of the accident until after the police have arrived. You’re safe to leave when they give you permission to. 

#4 Be Accurate

When law enforcement arrives, tell them exactly what you remember happening. They need a complete summary of what happened. Don’t guess–if you don’t remember a detail, state so. It’s better to not know than to fabricate details. If your account of the accident changes, you’ll become unreliable.

Law enforcement understands that accidents are terrible experiences to go through. The police deal with accidents daily. You might feel strongly about what happened. But the police don’t need your opinion. All they need are the facts of the accident. We understand how hard this can be. But sticking to this might save you some grief in the long run.

If the police ask you about your injuries after a car crash, be honest. If you’re in pain, tell them so. But if you don’t feel pain, then tell them you’re unsure. You might be injured. You just don’t feel the pain yet. Being unsure is more honest than saying “no” and finding out you’re injured later. 

#5 Take Photos

If you have a charged smartphone or camera with you, take photos of the following:

  • The accident at different angles–from the front of your car, from the back of the other driver’s car, and so forth
  • The accident at a distance and close up
  • Up-close photos of vehicular damage
  • Photos of your own injuries, if you have them

We highly recommend taking these photos immediately. But if you can’t, take them as soon as possible. Of course, the photos of the vehicles can only be taken at the accident. So, focus on those photos first. Then, focus on yourself.

#6 Exchange Contact Information

Exchanging contact information is an important task after a car crash. After all, how else can you get your vehicle repaired and your claim settled?

If the police are at the scene of the accident, they’ll collect everyone’s contact information. But it’s also okay for you to collect that information. Everything you need will be on the other driver’s insurance card. Snapping a photo of that should suffice. But, just in case, be sure to get the other driver’s name, address, and phone number. You should collect this information for everyone who was involved in the accident. That includes passengers.

Don’t forget about the witnesses, either. Anyone who saw the accident is considered a witness. If they’re willing to state what they saw, you should have their contact information.

#7 Report the Crash

You might breathe a sigh of relief when you get to leave the accident scene. But it’s not over yet. You still have to file your claim.

The paperwork is probably the second-most-dreaded part of the accident. No one wants to do it. Unfortunately, it’s a standard part of the process that every driver must go through. That is, unless you pay for damages out of pocket to avoid insurance prices going up.

But, assuming that you need to file a claim, allow us to walk you through the process.

First, make sure you have your insurance card with you. You’ll need the info on it to file your claim.

Second, make sure you have everyone else’s contact information on hand. The insurance company will need to reach out to other driver’s. They’ll contact the other driver to collect their statement of what happened.

Third, collect photographic evidence, documents, and anything else that establishes fault.

Finally, file your claim. You can file your claim over the phone. Your insurance company’s website and mobile app are also options.

After you’ve filed your claim, you’re good to go. The insurance companies will work together to resolve the claim. They’ll want to do so as quickly and affordably as possible. You’ll most likely settle. However, there is a possibility that you’ll go to arbitration.

Arbitration is a step between settlement and court. While settlement is favorable, not everyone gets along. That, or they simply can’t agree on what’s fair. Now, most insurance companies won’t allow you to go to court, or to sue them. It’s written into the fine print of your agreement. Simply put, court costs too much money. And that’s where arbitration comes in.

Arbitration is like having a non-biased judge decide how things will go for you. Arbitrators are experienced individuals. They’re usually retired judges or attorneys who like to stay busy. The best part is, you get to pick your arbitrator. The proceedings cannot move forward until both parties agree. You can choose one arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators.

The arbitration process has some similarities to the courtroom. But it also has its differences. You’ll present your facts to the arbitrator, just like you would the judge or jury. But the rules of evidence aren’t as strict. You can collect your damages more quickly. And pain and suffering can be included in your damages.

The best part of arbitration is the shorter waiting period. It can take months for a judge to reach a decision and require the other party to pay you. Arbitrators make decisions quickly (think a couple weeks or a month). They provide specific instructions regarding what money is owed to whom (if any) and when it’s due.

Arbitration takes a load off your shoulders after a car crash. This is because someone else makes the decisions for you. The only bad part about arbitration is the inability to protest it. Most insurance companies require binding arbitration. You can’t sue anyone, either.

#8 Get Medical Attention

If you call the police, first responders will come to the accident scene after a car crash. Allow them to examine you for injuries. Allow them to, even if you don’t feel pain. The pain from some injuries won’t surface for hours, or even days.

Following your exam at the accident scene, go to the doctor. While this may seem extra, it isn’t. It creates a trail of evidence. You need that trail. Otherwise, the other driver’s insurance company will argue. They’ll claim that your injuries are unrelated to the accident.

You’ll want to keep documentation of any and all medical records related to the accident. These will serve as evidence/proof of your injuries. It will make it difficult for the other party to argue that your injuries are unrelated to the accident.

In addition to your physical injuries, you might need therapy. A car accident is a traumatic event. Mental pain and suffering can be just as real as physical pain and suffering. If you need to see a therapist, get a referral from your primary care doctor. You’ll want to send all the therapy bills to the other driver’s insurance company. They should be held responsible for your pain and suffering.

#9 Get Your Vehicle Fixed

Of course, getting your vehicle fixed after a car crash is important. If the accident was a fender bender, you’ll likely have your car back very quickly. You might be able to get rides where you need to go if you don’t have rental car reimbursement.

But the damage to your vehicle might be severe. In this case, you probably won’t have your car for several days, at the least. If your car insurance includes rental reimbursement, then you’re set. But if you don’t have rental reimbursement, you’ll pay out of pocket.

There aren’t very many rules regarding getting your car fixed. Make sure the auto body repair shop works with your insurance company. Then, patiently wait for your car to get fixed.

Did your car get totaled? If the cost to repair your vehicle is greater than its worth, your car is totaled. You’ll receive a check for the Fair Market Value of your vehicle. The Fair Market Value is how much your vehicle was worth right before the accident. The money you receive is for you to replace your car. No one wants their car to get totaled. But the Fair Market Value saves you from not having any vehicle at all. 

#10 Safeguard Your Rights

Once you’ve filed your claim, the next step is consulting your attorney. A qualified attorney will help you through the entire process. The insurance companies might resolve a minor fender bender on their own. But a serious wreck is more complicated. You should be represented in that kind of accident.

Why?

Because you’re entitled to damages. You’ve been in pain. Your vehicle is damaged. Insurance companies want to settle for the least amount of money possible. Their primary interest is in saving money. For that reason, their money will go to an attorney instead of you. A fair settlement usually accompanies attorney-represented drivers.

We recommend consulting with an attorney right away after a car crash. You should before you speak with the other driver’s insurance company. This will help protect you and your rights.

The Lawsuit Info Center is here to help you. We work with thousands of individuals who need help. Have you been in a car accident? Visit our website and click “Find an Attorney”. You’ll be asked a few questions. Then, you’ll be directed to a list of attorneys whose expertise is in your field.

The Lawsuit Info Center was created to help you through times like this. We encourage you to check out all the resources we have on our website. Visit LawsuitInfoCenter.com to get started. We’re here whether things are under control, or if you think you’re drowning. Attorneys handle car accident cases all the time. They’re equipped to help you get the settlement you deserve.