Car accidents happen every day, with six million such incidents occurring daily in the United States alone. No one wants to be in a car accident, but sometimes we can get caught up in one through no fault of our own. Causes of accidents can be multiple. Perhaps the weather conditions were poor, and visibility was impaired, or the road surface was poor and potholed. Most accidents, however, are the result of human failings, such as driving too fast, or recklessly, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Despite this, however, accidents are, statistically most likely to occur, when a driver is distracted, and engaged in actions like texting, making phone calls, eating, changing the radio station, or updating a GPS.
If the worst should happen and you are seriously injured but still able to use your phone, you need to immediately call emergency services and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
However, If you do have the misfortune to be involved in car accident, and are not seriously injured, here are 20 tips as to what you should do.
1. Stay Calm
First and foremost, you have to stay calm after you have been in a car accident. It may be difficult, especially if you have been shaken-up, but it is important to keep your wits about you. Your top priority right after an accident is to maintain the safety of everyone involved and to take actions to prevent more accidents or injuries.
2. Refrain from Anger
Under no circumstances lose your temper when involved in an accident, even if you believe it is clearly somebody else’s fault. Anger just confuses the issue and prevents a clam settlement of affairs.
3. Check for injuries
Make sure that any passengers travelling with you are unharmed, and then check on the driver and passengers of the other vehicle involved in the accident. If needed, call for an ambulance.
4. Safety First
Safety needs to be your number one priority after a car accident. Make sure that it is completely safe to step out of the vehicle, and that you will not be vulnerable to being hit by oncoming vehicles.
5. If possible move the vehicles
If the accident is minor and both cars are still functioning, move them on to the side of the road or the hard shoulder on the motorway. If one or both of the cars do not move and it is clear they will have to be towed, turn on your hazard lights, and exit the vehicle when it is safe to do so. If you have flares or a warning triangle in your emergency car kit, now is the time to use them. Put them out to alert to other drivers so no one else crashes into the pile-up.
6. Call the Police
By law in most countries a car accident must be reported to the police. Failure to do so can often result in hefty fines and criminal sanctions. They will either send a car with officers to the scene, or may just tell you to file an accident report at a local station or online. The police can also be useful by filing an accident report that can serve as evidence for any insurance claim.
7. Have your documents ready
In the event of an accident you may be required to produce a copy of your driving licence, the car registration documents and a valid insurance certificate. Make sure they are all to hand to can be produced easily. In many countries it is a legal requirement that you carry them in your vehicle anyway.
8. Swap details with the other driver
If possible, talk to the other driver involved in the accident, and get their contact information, including their name, address, phone numbers, car registration number, and details of their insurance policy.
9. Take pictures
Whenever possible, take pictures using your smartphone of the accident. Photograph your car, the other driver’s car, the road, and any debris from the accident. This evidence can help prove the other driver’s negligence.
10. Do not admit responsibility
Even if the accident was your fault, do not admit responsibility at the scene of the accident. Blame is for the police and the insurance companies to determine, and you may undermine your own case by a public admission of guilt.
11. Talk to witnesses
If there are any witnesses to the accident, talk to them and get their contact details. In the event that matters eventually proceed to court, witness statements can be valuable evidence.
12. Write down what happened
As soon as you are able, make notes and write down what happened in the accident. Include details like the lane you were traveling in, the time of day, weather and road conditions, and other details that may have contributed to the accident. Try to remember as many details as you can as this will help you later when it comes to any insurance, and liability claims.
13. Report the accident to your insurance company
Your insurance policy is a contract between the insurance company and you. It could require you to report your accident whether or not you are making a claim and will have a strict deadline to give notice. If you fail to follow your contract requirements within the time period specified, you could lose your right to insurance coverage if you later need to file a claim.
Reporting your accident is simply notifying your insurance company that an accident occurred, not filing a claim to receive coverage for your property damages or injuries.
Even if you file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company, you may decide that it is quicker to pursue a claim for your car repairs and a rental car while your vehicle is in the shop with your own insurance company. If the other driver’s company is disputing your claim, it could take months or longer to negotiate a settlement. If you did not promptly report your claim in a timely manner, you could be denied coverage under your insurance policy.
Even if the other driver claims he has insurance, you may discover once you file your claim that his insurance policy has been cancelled or that he has insufficient coverage to provide you with the full compensation you deserve. If you reported the crash to your insurance company, you can file a claim for benefits under your under-insured or uninsured insurance coverage—if you purchased this type of insurance.
If you are able to continue your journey after an accident, it is highly recommended that you rest for a while first to recover your energy and equilibrium. Drinking lots of water can aid your recovery.
15. Vehicle Recovery
If your vehicle needs to be recovered or towed to a garage, discuss with your insurance company if they have a preferred company with which they work. Alternatively, you may want to use a motoring organisation of which you are a member, like the AA or the RAC, and they will have a list of preferred garages. If you do not accompany your vehicle, make sure you know exactly where it is being taken, and get all the relevant contact details.
16. Consider hiring a lawyer
Although insurance companies will normally work out between themselves the details of any claim, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer as well, to protect you from any aggressive claims, or to inform you of your rights in the event of any criminal proceedings that may ensue as a result of the accident.
17. Avoid social media
Do not talk about your accident on social media websites. Insurance adjusters may try to discredit your claim by using statements or even pictures posted to social media websites. They can also prejudice any subsequent criminal actions which may be brought.
18. Make a note of all the bills
Take note of all the car repair and medical bills which you incur as a result of the accident. These may include not only the cost of getting your car fixed, but also any hire cars you need to rent whilst your own vehicle is off the road. Medical bills may include not only the cost of fixing any broken limbs or hospital stays, but also the loss of income if any accident causes you to miss work for any length of time.
19. Do not ignore your mental health
Often a car accident can led to mental health problems, like depression, stress or anxiety. If you encounter any of these symptoms after a car accident, then seek immediate help from a suitably qualified health professional.
20. Do not be scared
Whilst accidents can be scary events, they are still rare and some people can drive for years without getting involved in one. If it has happened to you, do not be afraid to get behind the wheel again. Drive cautiously for a while, and you will soon get your confidence back.