Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention show that 38,000 people die in vehicle crashes annually in the United States. Medical and work losses from these deaths cost $55 billion in 2018. An additional three million people in the U.S. sustain injuries in vehicle accidents yearly.
Simple things like calling the police, moving vehicles off the road, trading information, documenting the damage, and following up with your insurance company can protect you and your assets after an accident.
Check for injuries
Get everyone out of the vehicle and to the side of the road as long as they aren’t seriously injured. Then, check on those in the other car.
Call 911 if anyone has any injuries. Then, at the very least, everyone will be checked out by medical personnel at the scene, and they can refuse a hospital trip if they aren’t injured.
This would also be the time to call the police. You will need documentation to file with your insurance company.
Never leave the scene of an accident. That also extends to “bumping” another vehicle, even if it’s unattended. Instead, wait until the owner returns. Failure to do so could net you a hit-and-run traffic ticket if someone or cameras spotted you hitting the vehicle and leaving.
Any vehicles on the road should be moved to the side if they are drivable and pushed. You don’t want to impede traffic, and leaving them on the road could be dangerous for you if you are getting things in and out of the car and other drivers.
You should take a picture or two of the scene before the cars are moved for the documentation but don’t do it from the road or where you are in danger from other drivers.
This involves two primary things:
- Take pictures of the damage to both vehicles. Look for damage where the paint shows the strike but take photos of any damaged area, from deployed airbags to body damage.
- Get the other driver’s name, phone number, address, and insurance information. Also, get the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses.
The police will likely get this, but a report won’t be available for several days, and you will need this now to report the accident to your insurance company.
It is critical to keep your conversations to the minimum where you are simply trading information with the other driver and getting contact information from witnesses. Don’t talk about the accident, whose fault it was, or what you were doing when it happened. Don’t apologize.
Call your insurance company
The faster you call your insurance company, the faster it can work to get a claim in, damage repaired and injuries documented for payment. Always go through the insurance company even if the other driver offers to pay cash for damages. Your insurance company will ensure these things are properly paid while a “private deal” offers no guarantees.
Follow up with your doctor
An accident isn’t over when you leave the scene. There could be hidden injuries for both you or the other driver or passengers. It wouldn’t hurt to visit your doctor to make sure you don’t have a concussion or similar injury.
Be prepared for your car to be evaluated by an insurance adjuster. You may need an attorney if the other party attempts to sue you personally or if there are traffic charges.
In the end, doing things like getting information and following safety procedures will put you in a more favorable light if it ends up going to court or litigation.