I Have Just Been in an Accident. What Should I Do Next?
This is one of the most common questions we’re asked. Here’s our response. We hope it helps (here is a podcast version of this post explaining 5 things you should NEVER do after an accident)
First of all, it’s important that you immediately stop your vehicle. This applies to automobiles, motorcycles and trucks. If you’re on a busy road or freeway and your vehicle, pull off to the side of the road where it is safe.
Do not leave the scene of the accident. Collisions can happen to anyone, even the most careful drivers. Having said that, there is never a valid excuse for failing to stop after an accident. Also keep in mind that in most states, hit and run offenses are felonies, with increased penalties is someone has been injured in the accident.
Q: After I have stopped what should I do?
A: Check each person involved in the accident to see if they have been hurt. Call the police (911). Call an ambulance if necessary.
Q: If someone is hurt should I try to help?
A: Yes. If the person is seriously injured, do not attempt to move him or her unless it is absolutely necessary to protect the person from further injury. Get someone to call the police or 911 if an ambulance is needed. Do what you can to make the injured person comfortable until paramedics or the police arrive.
Q: Once the injured people are taken care of. What is next?
A: You and the other driver(s) must exchange information. You will want the driver’s name, address, phone numbers, driver’s license number, insurance carrier, policy number, agent, and a phone number for the agent. You will be expected to provide the same information to the other driver(s). Keep in mind the more information you can obtain from the other driver(s), the better. Use your smartphone to take pictures, videos and record statements.
Q: What information about the motor vehicle do I need?
A: You need to note the make, model and year, its color and license plate number. Be sure to check the expiration date of the license plate.
Q: Do I need to get the same sort of information from the passengers in the other motor vehicle?
A: Yes. You need to obtain the name, address and telephone number of each passenger in the other motor vehicle. Take a moment to observe each of the passengers, where they were sitting or riding and whether they appear injured or unharmed by the accident. Look for slurred speech, glassy eyes and difficulty in remembering when you talk to them and note how they appear.
Q: What should I do if there were witnesses?
A: Before the witnesses leave you should obtain their names, addresses and telephone numbers. You should record where the witness was when the accident occurred and if possible a short statement of what the witness observed.
Q: I’ve got the witness information, the other driver’s information and a list of the passengers. What now?
A: As briefly mentioned above, if you have a camera or cell phone camera, take pictures and videos of the accident scene. Take pictures of the motor vehicles, the street in both directions for the accident (including skid marks, if any), any stop signs or other traffic signals or signs. Also take pictures of the accident from the direction of travel of each of the automobiles involved. A video camera is especially useful in recording the behavior of the other driver, which may be useful if the other driver has been drinking or using drugs. Take pictures and videos of license plates and anything else that may be relevant to the collision.
Q: What should I do if I do not have a camera or smart phonewith me?
A: Make a diagram of the accident, indicating the direction each motor vehicle was traveling, the speed of each, and what happened. Measure any skid marks. Record the condition of the street (wet, dry, under construction, lots of gravel, big potholes) and signs restricting the free flow of traffic. Record the posted speed limit and anything else that will help you remember later what occurred prior to the accident.
Q: I can get a camera when I get home. Is there anything I need to take a picture or video of?
A: Take pictures of the damage to your motor vehicle as soon as you can. Take close-up and farther away pictures to show the damage. Take pictures of yourself and any passengers in your motor vehicle who were injured. Again take full body pictures and close-ups to show the injuries. You can never take too many pictures or videos.
Q: Should we move the motor vehicles?
A: Whether you should move the motor vehicles depends on the severity of the accident and where it occurred. A serious accident with injured people should be left alone until the police arrive. You may have to direct traffic around the accident, set flares or station someone in a position to warn oncoming motorists. A fender-bender during rush hour that threatens to tie up traffic for miles might be moved out the driving lanes after you have determined that no one was hurt.
Q: What should I do if I have an accident in a parking lot?
A: In most states the police will not respond to an accident in a parking lot that does not involve personal injury. The parking lot is private property and the minor accidents there are generally outside the jurisdiction of the police. You should exchange personal, driver’s license and insurance information with the other driver.
Q: If the police do not come and investigate the accident what should I do?
A: Complete all of the above steps. You should also make a report of the accident within 24 hours at the nearest police station. The counter report, sometimes called a cold report, should explain the accident and identify the parties involved.
Do NOT post anything about the collision, who was at fault, or your injuries on social media. Keep in mind that anything you share online is potential evidence that can be used against you. Things get misinterpreted by others so why take a risk.