What To Do In A Car Accident
Whether your car is brand new or you have had it for years, chance are you would like to keep it in as best condition as possible. Unfortunately, the increasing number of vehicles on the road each year makes it more and more likely to find oneself in a car accident. In fact, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, road crashes rank as the 9th leading cause of death and account for over 2% of all deaths across the globe. That’s nearly 1.3 million deaths annually with an average of 3,287 deaths every day. What’s more, each year an additional 20–50 million find themselves injured or disabled.
But wait, what does this mean for you?
You’re special right? Car accidents may happen to other, far less lucky schmucks, but you are a good driver and should be fine! Think again. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every four drivers experiences a car accident during their lifetime. This means that a car accident CAN happen to you. With common sense, vigilance, and a bit of knowledge, you don’t need to worry too much though!
This article will prepare you in the event that you do find yourself in a car accident by detailing the best actions to take. While the information in this article specifically discusses the specifics of car-on-car accidents, a majority of what you read is also applicable to incidents involving a single car.
I was in a Minor Accident
Based on current company data from State Farm Insurance Company, around 75% of all car accidents are actually non-injury accidents commonly referred to as “fender-benders”. These types of accidents are usually categorized as “minor” because people are quick to settle and rarely resort to hiring a lawyer and suing in court. Still, anyone who has had to deal with a dented bumper knows that it pays off to obtain some general knowledge of fender-bender protocol.
- Check for injuries. Don’t hesitate to call the police or fire rescue to help anyone in need of assistance. Be grateful because with a fender-bender, there is a good chance no one is hurt.
- Stay calm. Unleashing your anger will do nothing to help and can even be counterproductive. While you can’t control how the other driver reacts, you can act in a way that does not create or escalate a confrontation.
- Look for witnesses and get their contact information with a brief statement of how they perceived what happened. This can help with your insurance claim, especially in the case that the other driver claims personal or property damage.
- No apologies. Whether you are at fault or not, leave the issue up to the police and insurance companies. Even though fender benders typically do not end up in court, the other driver holds the right to use anything you say as evidence against you.
- Even if there are not enough police available to respond since it is a minor accident, call to ask for one anyway. If you feel the scene is dangerous, the police should send at least one officer. Expect to help the officer to create a police report by providing them with each driver’s and witness’s names and contact information. If you live in an at-fault insurance state, and the other driver was at all, the police report is incredibly valuable. Make sure to note the service number of the report so that you can pick up a copy from the police station for reference.
- Whether the police can come or not, exchange information with the other driver including full name, contact info, and the name and telephone number of his or her insurance company. In most states, the law requires parties to a car accident to exchange insurance information at the scene of the accident
- Take photos and videos! Many insurance companies even recommend investing in a quality dash cam for your vehicle.
- Call your insurance company. You must let them know that you were in an accident even if it was not your fault. Unless the other driver files a claim, your insurance premiums will probably not be negatively affected. Don’t forget to write down the claim number for future reference.
I was in a Major Accident
Major accidents involve more action, attention, and detail than a minor accident would require. A major accident refers to those accidents with injury, those that cannot be moved out of traffic, and those that have caused significant property damage. In the case of one, you are required to get both the police and insurance companies involved. But what else should you do?
- Check yourself and anyone involved for injuries. Moving a seriously injured victim could worsen the injury, but do so if there is danger of future harm (e.g. car fire)
- Call 911. If you have serious injuries, it is important that you request an ambulance. To speed up assistance, provide the police with any locational information you can give them such as street or exit signs.
- If safe and legal, move car out of traffic and turn it off. If you cannot move it, turn the car off and put your hazard lights on. Road flares are great because they are much more visible at night and in fog, rain, or snow.
- Secure evidence. Some people even recommend getting a dash cam recorder, but the most important thing is to take as many photos and videos as possible. Then, take more photos.
- DTD. Deny Til Death. Never admit or assign blame. This is why you have insurance. Call them.
The information in this article is broadly accepted, but laws change frequently depending on time and jurisdiction. Always consider obtaining a personalized case evaluation from an attorney Further, while this article contains many tips and tricks for dealing with a car accident, nothing is better than preventing one from occurring in the first place. Read our article on “Preventing a Car Accident” here.