With all of the cars on the road, it's no surprise that accidents happen every day — on the freeway, in parking lots, on residential streets, in line at drive-thru restaurants and everywhere else imaginable.
The shock of a car crash can disorient you and prevent you from following through with the most basic procedures. Here are 10 steps everyone should follow after a car accident.
1. Don’t panic.
It is important that you keep your cool after a car accident. The more panicky and fearful you get, the more likely it is that you will further injure yourself or forget one of these crucial steps.
You should focus on your breathing and analyze the situation. If you are badly shaken up, you can take some time to gather yourself before moving forward.
2. Get to a safe place.
It is not safe to stay in the middle of the road after an accident. Your car will likely have to remain there for a few reasons — to preserve evidence, for one, but also because the tow company will not instantly show up to move it.
Once you are somewhere safe, like on the sidewalk or side of the road, you can begin to take more necessary actions.
3. Check the health of other passengers.
If you were riding with passengers, you should check to make sure they are not harmed, especially if they are children. You can do your best to get the situation under the control and keep them from panicking as well.
Furthermore, you can check the health of anyone else involved in the accident.
4. Call the paramedics.
A crash that was particularly severe should not be treated lightly. You should call the paramedics if you were hurt or if you suspect someone in the other vehicle suffered injuries.
The paramedics will do their best to arrive as quickly as possible to treat anyone who was hurt. If necessary, the paramedics will take severely injured victims to the emergency room for treatment.
The key aspect here is not to panic. Do not make anything worse. Not many people know how to apply proper pressure to a wound, make a tourniquet, safely remove someone from a vehicle that is crushing them or administer CPR.
5. Talk to eyewitnesses.
If there were any bystanders, passengers in cars or other eyewitnesses who saw the accident occur, you should talk to them and request that they stick around to talk with the police. Although eyewitness testimony is not always completely accurate, it can still shed light on the situation and help determine whose fault the accident was.
6. Request a police report.
The police will usually show up to the scene of an accident if there were injuries or if the accident is blocking traffic. When they arrive, they'll start gathering testimonies from people. They will eventually make a report with their own theories as to what happened, complete with diagrams and a collection of witness and driver statements.
The police can also help take further action if a driver were drunk or had warrants out for his arrest. The presence of police can help prevent people from giving false information or from fleeing the scene.
7. Snap photographs.
In today's age of technology, almost everyone has cameras in their pockets. You should always take pictures of the car accident. Even though it won't truly show was in the wrong, it can show where the brunt of the damage happened and what kind of harm you suffered.
When you take photos, you protect yourself from accusations and have proof that you were hurt or that the accident wasn't your fault.
8. Copy insurance information.
Following a car crash, one of the most important things to remember is to exchange insurance information with the other driver in the accident. All too often, people will simply drive away without taking any information down at all.
You have to get the other person's name and driver's license number, insurance details, contact information and anything else that will come in handy in the future.
9. Report the accident to your insurance company.
You may have a policy that requires you to report the accident as soon as it happened. No matter what, the sooner you alert your insurance company, the easier it will be for you to collect a payout if the circumstances allow it.
You may have coverage for liability, underinsured motorists, uninsured motorists, collision and more.
10. Remain at the scene of the crash.
After a crash, you absolutely do not want to leave the scene of the accident. Not only is this difficult for the other driver, but it is also illegal and can result in a fine and even jail time.
Essentially, it would be a hit and run, even if you lived nearby and wanted to go home to tell your family what happened. You have to stay at the scene to exchange information with the other driver or to talk with the police.
More importantly, don't try to handle every aspect of the accident yourself. Let the experts do their jobs, whether that means the paramedics, police, insurance agents or others. You might even want to take legal action, in which case you might be better off with an attorney, since civil lawsuits can be tricky.
"Most car accidents can be handled without an attorney if you want to file a claim, but if someone was hurt, that changes the circumstances altogether," says Daniel Azizi, founder of Downtown LA Law Group. The presence of injuries makes a world of difference when dealing with insurance agents and can be the deciding factor in whether or not an insurance claim will go your way.
Even though a car accident can be scary and can result in confusion and shock, you should do your best to keep your wits about you and follow the steps listed above. You'll be adequately prepared for whatever happens next.