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Involved in a Car Accident? 6 Critical First Steps You Must Take

At some point or another, every person is likely to get into a car accident. Whether a more serious incident or a minor fender-bender, you should know exactly how to the handle the problem. Regardless of whose fault it was, you must take the next steps carefully so that you have the minimum amount of losses and complete support of the law and insurance company. As soon as the mishap happens, remember to stay calm and take complete stock of the situation. Like advocates Smith and Eulo advise, follow these critical first steps until help arrives in the form of a law enforcement officer or medical assistance.

1.  Stop Right There!

A car accident can happen anywhere, in a crowded parking lot, quiet street in a residential neighborhood, or on a busy freeway. According to statistics gathered by National Safety Council, close to 6 million mishaps occur on an average and in the year 2018 alone, 4.5 million people were seriously injured. Whatever you do, never drive off and leave the scene. You must stay on the spot and wait for help. Unless you’re blocking the road and at risk from fast-moving traffic, you might want to leave the car where it is. Turn on the flashers of the care to indicate to other drivers that the vehicle is in trouble and they must bypass it carefully. If you have flares in the car, set them up around the periphery. If you don’t have any indicators and its night, use your phone’s flashlight to remain visible in the dark.

2.  Check if the Drivers and Passengers are Hurt and Need Emergency Assistance

As soon as the car accident occurs, get out of the vehicle and make sure the passengers in both cars are safe. Often times, even if a person feels fine otherwise, he may need help for internal injuries that are not visible right away. Many people may not even feel pain because of the shock. But, the trauma becomes apparent later when medical personnel check the injured carefully. Straining against a seatbelt or bumping the head can cause injuries. A passenger complaining of feeling dazed or disoriented could have bleeding in his head and need a scan. Many insurance companies offer you “medpay” that covers the costs of the injuries from a car accident. Get this coverage at the time of buying insurance.

3.  Phone the Police and Report the Incident

Next, you must call the police. Reporting the incident ensures that you’ll have an official report to show to the insurance company. Talk about the incident complete with the details of the location and a short description of the what happened. When you’re scared and flustered, it is possible to get the facts wrong. If you’re not sure about the sequence of events, say that you’re not sure. But, on no account must you give statements that are not entirely true and may be clouded by your nervousness and confusion.

Even as the officers take the time to assess the situation, they’ll call in an ambulance so the passengers can be examined and transported to the nearest medical facility.

4.  Now that Your Passengers Are Safe, Create Records of the Car Accident

If you need to move the vehicle, take a few minutes to take pictures using your cellphone. Take shots of both cars from all angles complete with the license plates, makes, colors, and model. You may also want to make sure that the damage is clearly visible. Taking photographs of the surroundings also helps add context to the incident and figuring out the errors and person responsible.

5.  Begin Gathering Information

Like this article on AllState recommends, the time you spend collecting information can go a long way in helping you resolve the situation later. You’ll need details like:

  • Name and address of the driver
  • Phone number and any other contact details
  • Name of the insurance company
  • Number of the insurance policy
  • Vehicle registration number and license plates
  • Date and time of the car accident
  • Location of the accident including the street name, crossing, and directions in which both cars were moving.
  • Names and badge numbers of the police officers present at the car accident.
  • Names of the witnesses of the incident and their contact information.
  • Any notes about the weather and driving conditions that could have had a positive or negative effect on the judgment of the drivers. If there is any visibility impairment because of heavy rain, snow, or fog, note that down also.
  • Some insurance companies also require the initial reports created by the police. See if you can get a copy.
  • If you’ve called in a cab or rental car for temporary transportation, add those details also.

Even when exchanging information, the experts on The Balance warn you to never take responsibility. Direct your answers and questions only to officer handling the scene and the insurance representative present. It is up to the insurance company to work out the liability for the car accident and settle it to your advantage. Even if the other driver offers to settle the issue and cover damages, it is always advisable to let the law take its course. Keep in mind that different states have their own accident forms and these pages are typically designed in such a way to get all the pertinent information exactly as it occurred.

6.  Maintain a Detailed File

Like your lawyers will advise, collect all the paperwork and put it together in a file. Add the name and contact details of the insurance company representative handling your claim. Getting all the pertinent details together will help your lawyers and insurance company protect your interests and get you the best compensation for the damages you may have incurred.

A car accident is an unfortunate incident that can occur regardless of how carefully you and the other driver were navigating the road. The important thing is to act responsibly and follow the step laid down by your insurance company and legal representative. The presence of mind you have in an emergency will help you mitigate the fallout.

About the author

Susan Paige

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