According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car accidents have been steadily on the rise in the US. For the years 2011-2015, the number of yearly car accidents increased every year, as shown in the data below:
- 5,338,000 (2011)
- 5,615,000 (2012)
- 5,687,000 (2013)
- 6,064,000 (2014)
- 6,296,000 (2015)
With car accident statistics rapidly increasing due to increased numbers of cars on the road and failing infrastructure, it's surprising how few people know the most important steps to take after an accident.
Preemptively learning what to do directly after an accident will save you the trouble of having to figure out what to do after an accident occurs, when the stress and pain of the moment will make figuring out what to do a significant challenge.
The checklists provided below, created by State Farm offer a strong foundation for what to do in the event of a car accident:
- Take a deep breath and stay calm
- Check for injuries; call an ambulance when in doubt
- If accident is minor, move cars to a safe place, out of traffic
- Turn on your vehicle's hazard lights
- Call the police, even if the accident is minor
- Notify your insurance agent immediately
What To Do After a Car Accident: Other Important Tips
Are you a careful driver? Do you keep your car in great condition with regular maintenance? Unfortunately, even the best drivers and car owners may be involved in an accident.
The shock and adrenaline of a car accident can make it hard to think clearly and make good decisions. Mistakes here could cost you in legal headaches and fees down the line. So how do you protect your rights? Read on to learn more about what to do immediately after an accident:
The First Few Minutes
The first few minutes are the most critical time after an accident. Mistakes here might be life or death.
If you aren't seriously injured and the car can be driven, pull safely off of the road. This can prevent you from getting rear-ended by other cars and the accident escalating.
If the car cannot be driven but is in the middle of a busy intersection or fast road, you may want to exit it and make your way to safety.
Check yourself and your passengers for injuries. Then check on the person in the other car if one was involved. This should include both glancing over the people for blood or obvious injuries and asking them if they are okay. Do not touch anyone; if they have a spinal injury, this could make things worse. Find a chiropractor near you to have your injury reviewed.
Watch What You Say
Remember that you should never apologize for the accident or accept blame. Keep your questions and statements neutral. This is for two reasons. In the unfortunate possibility of a lawsuit, anything you say may come back to haunt you.
Be just as mindful of what you say to any witnesses in the area. Secondly, remember that an auto accident can happen in the blink of an eye and be very confusing. It may not be clear what had happened, or whether it was your fault after all.
Call For Help
You will want to call the police and an ambulance in the case of an injury or suspected injury. Car accident injuries can be tricky to judge. Many people claim to feel fine until the adrenaline wears off. Whiplash in particular can show up later. That is why you should call an ambulance if there's any chance of an injury.
If, luckily enough, no one is hurt then you will still want to call the police. An official police report that lays out all the facts can be invaluable for defending your rights.
Police reports are important for another reason here, too. Many auto insurance companies will require one before proceeding with insurance claims. Remember, it is your right to have a police report. If other involved parties don't want the police called, they may not have your best interests in mind.
While waiting for the police to arrive, you will need to gather some information. This includes paperwork like your license, registration, and proof of insurance. You'll need the name of the other car's driver and passengers as well as their insurance information.
Next, get the license plate of the other car as well as its make and model. After that, write down the exact location of the accident and when it occurred. If you have a camera, you can take some pictures to document the situation. See any eyewitnesses around? Get their names and contact information, too.
When the Police Arrive When the police arrive on the scene, make sure you get the officers' names and badge numbers. Fully cooperate with them and answer their questions as honestly as possible. However, do not admit fault or assign blame. The police report is simply a factual recount of events. Blame will be officially determined later on by the insurance company or the police themselves. Be sure to go into detail about exactly what happened. The police report can help you recall the events later on even if the details have gotten fuzzy.
Who to Notify
If you are involved in an injury accident in a city, you must immediately notify:
- an ambulance, if someone is injured
- the police
- your insurance company
- friends or family members who can give you a ride
- a towtruck, if your car is not drivable
Interacting With Your Insurance Company
Are you thinking about not getting your insurance company involved? A lot of people consider this option in the case of very minor accidents with no injuries. One issue here is, in the absence of a police report documenting what happened, you are relying on the other party to pay for minor repairs. If they decide not to, you may be out of luck. They may also change their story, claim greater damages or an injury, etc. This can cause you a legal headache.
Another issue here is that the damage to your car may turn out to be more extensive than you realized. It's easy to overlook things during the confusion of an accident. That is why, generally speaking, it's a good idea to notify your insurance of an accident of any size.
Should You Call an Attorney?
It is recommended to contact a car accident lawyer before reaching out to your insurance company. These lawyers know the ins and outs of your state's laws. They also most likely have a lot of experience dealing with your insurance company, too.
Unlike your insurance company, your lawyer is definitely on your side. They will work out a strategy to get you the best possible outcome. Meanwhile, your insurance company is out to protect their bottom line. Finally, your lawyer will explain the process to you and help you report the accident in the right way.
Other Benefits of Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
If your insurance company denies your claim, your lawyer can help you figure out what to do after a car accident.
They can appeal or make a rebuttal on your behalf. This may cause the insurance company to reverse their decision in your favor. Lawyers can also dig up evidence about your case. They can also explain claims forms so you don't miss any details. Finally, your attorney can help you get a fair payout and reimbursement for loss of work.
This article is a general guide to what to do after an accident in the USA. However, different states have specific laws regarding exactly what your responsibilities are. You will want to familiarize yourself with what your home state requires of its auto drivers.