Car accidents can be jarring. Adrenaline runs high, people may be confused or disoriented, and many drivers aren’t sure what they should do next. The reality is that the steps you take at the scene of the accident and the days following the incident can be crucial.
Find out what to do after a car accident occurs with these top 10 tips
1. Check yourself and your passengers for any obvious injuries.
If someone is seriously injured, do not move the person or the vehicle. If you are able to call 9-1-1, do so. Wait for emergency personnel to arrive and provide medical assistance. If injuries are minor or are not noticeable immediately following the accident, take the following steps.
2. Pull over, if possible.
If the damage isn’t too severe and your car is still able to move, turn on your hazards and attempt to make your way to the side of the road. That way, you can safely exchange insurance information with the other driver.
3. Call 9-1-1.
Even if you think you can handle the situation on your own, it’s best to have police on the scene. In fact, some states even require it. Yes, someone may get a ticket, but it’s worth the risk. Having a detailed, accurate police report can help you file a claim after the car accident. It can also help you defend against inaccurate claims made by other drivers later on. While they are on the scene, police may advise you to take additional steps after a car accident. Ask the officer where you can obtain a copy of the official report for your records.
4. Exchange car insurance information.
You will need the other driver’s insurance information so your agent can connect with their provider and determine which driver will pay for certain damages. Some information you should exchange includes the following:
- Contact information
- License plate numbers
- Each vehicle’s make, model, year, color and VIN
- The name of each insurance company, policy number and the agent’s contact information
5. Document the accident.
Take photos and videos of your car, the other car, and the surrounding area. Get images of the damage done to both vehicles as well as the other car’s license plate. If you can, gather contact information from any witnesses as well. Remember to document the time and date, since these will be required in both the police report and your car accident claim.
6. Begin filing a claim.
If you aren’t sure how long after a car accident you can file a claim, check with your state and your insurance provider. Each state has their own statute of limitations for personal injury and property damage claims. Generally, the faster you start the claim process, the better. Sometimes you can even start the claims process while you’re still on the scene. As a best practice, try starting the claim within 24 hours of the time the accident occurred.
7. Go to the doctor.
Sometimes, injuries don’t present symptoms immediately after a car accident. If you aren’t feeling well in the days following an accident, including having a stiff neck or back pain, go to the doctor as soon as possible. Don’t forget to call your insurance to add any doctor’s visits and treatment plans to the claim you’ve filed.
8. Report the accident to the DMV, if necessary.
Some states require drivers to report accidents to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), especially if significant damage occurred. Check with your state’s DMV to determine if you need to file a report.
9. Follow the instructions provided by your insurance.
Typically, your insurance agent will recommend businesses you can go to for vehicle repairs. From there, you can choose to take it to your own repair shop or pick one of the agent’s recommendations. After you call the shop to schedule an appointment, they may inspect your vehicle and send estimates and a timeline to your agent. Then, your agent may notify you with potential deductible payments and next steps. Your agent should be able to coordinate all the small details to help ensure everything goes smoothly.
Depending on how long repairs take, you may need a rental car. If you have rental coverage and you were deemed responsible for the accident, your claims adjuster can help arrange for you to receive a rental. If you did not have coverage, you may have to pay for the rental car out of pocket. If you were not responsible for the accident, the other driver’s insurance may cover the costs of the rental. Check with your insurance provider to determine who pays for the rental car if you’re not sure.
10. Consult an attorney, if necessary.
There may be several reasons to consult with an attorney after a car accident. Some reasons you may want to involve an attorney include the following:
- If you were injured in an accident.
- If a fatality occurred.
- If you believe you were wrongly accused of being at fault.
- If you need to better defend yourself if you’re at fault.
- If a police report does not accurately describe the events.
- If you are unable to come to an agreement with an insurance company.
- If you believe an insurance company is acting in bad faith.
If you think you need assistance, contact an attorney as soon as possible following the incident. That way, they can help speak to insurance companies on your behalf and get you the best settlement possible. This can especially come in useful if you were badly injured, had to take time off work and had to cover any medical expenses because of the accident.
If you have been seriously injured in a car accident, contact The Costello Law Firm. For more than 15 years, we’ve represented accident victims in and beyond the Burlington County area with a success rate of over 98 percent. We’ll fight to get you the compensation you deserve, all while taking away as much of the stress and worry that comes with vehicle accidents.
Chris Costello, ESQ.
Chris handles matters in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is an active member of the New Jersey Association for Justice as well as the Burlington County Bar Association. As a Burlington County personal injury lawyer, Mr. Costello has served as chairman of the Burlington County Bar Association Personal Injury Committee and lectured on topics related to auto accidents and insurance law.