If every day were a walk in the park, car accidents would never happen. Unfortunately, accidents are a part of life. Sometimes car crashes are unavoidable. Even the safest drivers have accidents. That’s why you have insurance.
It’s good to know that you’re protected financially, but the initial shock of a car accident is usually followed by anxiety and stress. Depending on the severity of the crash, you may experience injury or emotional trauma.
No matter what, crashes can be scary. Even after leaving the accident site, the experience drags on. Insurance gets involved, and sometimes law enforcement and lawyers do, too. Many people find themselves unprepared and unsure what to do after a crash.
What to Do Immediately After the Crash
Once you recover from the initial impact of the collision, quickly assess yourself. Do you have any injuries?
If serious injuries are present, call 911 immediately. If you don’t have any severe injuries, assess your passengers.
Put on your hazard lights. Your car may become a road hazard for other drivers. If possible, navigate your vehicle to the shoulder or median.
If your car can’t be moved after the accident, get yourself and your passengers out of the car and away from the vehicle. If the car is smoking, leave all belongings, exit quickly and keep a safe distance. Be careful as you cross-traffic and wait in a secure location.
Reporting and Documenting the Accident
Next, call 911 to report the accident. Most insurance companies need a police report after a crash to file a claim.
Check on the other driver and their passengers and make sure they are safe. If the other driver is calm and safe, it is appropriate to exchange information for insurance purposes.
Here’s a list of information you exchange with the other driver:
- Name and contact information.
- Insurance provider and policy number
- Make and model of the vehicles involved.
Sometimes, the other driver isn’t calm. Do not engage with intoxicated or aggressive drivers. Take note of the situation and describe it to the police when they arrive.
Avoid talking about blame or the cause of the accident. Keep your interactions with the other driver to a minimum.
Assess the damage to both vehicles. If possible, take some pictures for your insurance claim.
When law enforcement arrives, answer their questions and provide a detailed description of the crash. You should ask law enforcement for their name, badge number and contact information if you need a copy of the police report for your files. If you plan to file a claim with your insurance provider, it’s best to do this as soon as possible.
The Aftermath of an Accident
Depending on the damage to your car, you may need to call a tow truck.
Most tow companies will take you to any auto body shop that you request. If you are unsure of where to go, they usually have suggestions. Your insurance agent may also have a few options to choose from.
Your insurance may cover a rental car to hold you over while your car is being repaired. Worst case scenario, you have to get a new car or you’ll be carless for a while.
Getting around may be difficult for a while, but the important thing is that you’re safe. Services like Uber, or even a friend who owes you a favor, can help you get around town until you’re driving again.
Listen to your body in the days and weeks after a car crash. Sometimes, injuries present themselves later on, but they should never be ignored. Tell your healthcare provider if you notice anything painful or out of the ordinary. Keep records of all accident-related injuries and share them with your insurance agent.
If you filed a claim for the damage caused by the accident, you might find that your insurance rates increase. This might feel like one more setback, but it’s not the end of the world. These rate increases usually go down in a couple of years as long as you practice safe driving.
Life Goes on After Accidents
Driving is a heavy responsibility. It should always be taken seriously. Every time you get behind the wheel, you need to be prepared and clear-headed. It’s easy to get distracted while driving, but the consequences can be catastrophic.
If you’ve walked away from an accident, you’re one of the lucky ones. Crashes ruin your day, your week and sometimes the better part of a year. But if you learn from the experience and move forward responsibly, you will recover.