If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s a good idea to know the steps to follow. These steps are the same whatever the cause of the accident. Generally, accidents can have many causes: driver error, road conditions, weather conditions, or even sudden and unexpected events, such as a pedestrian suddenly darting in front of a car or debris hitting your car.
Whatever the catalyst for the accident, here’s what you should do.
- Call the police or 911
If anyone is injured, call 911. The dispatchers there will contact all relevant authorities, including police and an ambulance.
If no one is injured, call the local police. They will come, speak to all drivers and other witnesses, and compile a police report. The police report is a record of what happened, including representations of the accident (trajectory and position of vehicles), the road conditions, the weather, and statements.
A police report is a valuable source of determining the causes of the accident, and thus the responsibility for the accident.
- Exchange information with the other driver
Don’t argue with or recriminate against the other driver at the scene of the accident. If the other driver is responsible, that needs to be established through official channels, not through a personal argument. At the scene, simply get the other driver’s insurance information and contact information, and provide your own. This is standard procedure.
- Call your insurance company
Call your insurance company to report the accident as soon as possible. Have information about the accident (what happened, location) ready, as well as your policy number and the information about the other driver.
If you live in a no-fault state, your insurance company will likely pay for any damages to your car and any medical bills related to the accident. If you don’t reside in a no-fault state, who ends up paying for damages can be determined by who is at fault for the accident. The police report can help determine who (or what) was responsible.
If the other party is responsible but the insurance company will not pay for damages, or the other party is not insured, it might be prudent to consult a lawyer. Going to court may be necessary to establish responsibility and to receive compensation for any damages to your health and to your property. If a car accident caused you to miss time from work, you can also seek monetary compensation for lost wages.
- See a doctor
If you are obviously injured, you should seek medical attention right away. But it’s always advisable to seek medical attention after an accident, even if you don’t feel or seem injured. Car accidents can cause multiple injuries that aren’t apparent to the injured.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI), for example, can be caused if your head was jostled or hit during the accident. TBIs, which include concussions, can cause severe symptoms later, such as fatigue, nausea, dizziness, memory loss, and paralysis. Soft tissue injury can also manifest later.
Tell your doctor you were in an accident and what occurred during it. They will check you out and provide peace of mind.