What To Do If You’re Involved In a Car Accident

SUV in accident
Photo Credit: Photo Spirit/Shutterstock.com
Odds are, you remember the first fender bender you ever had. No matter how minor, it stays with you and can even be traumatic. If you are in an accident without serious injury, thank your lucky stars, but also you need to know what to do and what not to do. Here are some tips that might help you should it happen.

Stay Calm

First, stay calm and stay safe. Then call 9-1-1. It will vary depending on where you are, but make the call and get instructions on what to do. What they tell you may depend on the severity of the accident. If the police come out, this will help establish liability and could even prevent fraud.

Take Photos Keeping Your Safety in Mind

Often you are shaken up, but know your surroundings and make sure you are not in more danger from other traffic. If there is traffic whizzing by, safely take your phone if you can and snap pictures, lots of them from every angle, then move your car off to the side of the road. If the vehicles are not movable, turn on your hazard lights and stand off to the side until a wrecker arrives.

Exchange Information

If the police do not come to the scene, it is time to exchange information. It is always a good idea to keep pen and paper in your glove box. Get the other party’s name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number, phone number, email address if possible, and insurance info including agent’s name and number, and policy number. If the police do come, get the officer’s name and badge number, and ask how to obtain a copy of the police report.

Make Detailed Notes

Note important surroundings. Note time of day, the weather, and any other pertinent things that come to mind, like witnesses if there are any. Also, jot down a description and the license number of the other car involved. Note where damage is to all vehicles. Honestly, you just can’t write down too much. Remember, the other party may tell a different story down the road, and having great notes can help you immensely if you get hauled into court.

Don’t Assess Blame

This is not the time to get into who is at fault with the other driver. Tempers can flare and there is need to get into a hassle, you will have time for that later.

I recommend the next call be to your insurance company, whether you are at fault or not. Let your agent’s office know what happened, and describe the events of the accident. They will ask you questions and help you get your vehicle repaired, and a rental if your policy covers those.

Diminished Value

If the other party is found liable for the accident, in most states you are able to collect diminished value. This is the amount you will lose when you go to get rid of the car that was in an accident. There are experts out there who can assist you for a fee. If the damage is minimal, you might want to just ask the other party’s insurance company what they are willing to pay for your loss of damage. If your vehicle is moderately to severely damaged, I would get an expert to make sure you are properly compensated. With CarFax and AutoCheck and other databases out there, your car will never be worth what it would have had the accident not happened.

If you have a wreck and there are no serious injuries, you are blessed. Cars can be replaced, people cannot. There is no car worth getting super upset about.
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Oscar Franco
What if the other driver is hostile and abusive, to the point where you fear for your safety? Is it permissible to drive off?
Amy P.
I would not drive off, rather wait in your car and call 9-1-1. If they hostile with the officer, they'll get a free ride.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Tina B
Hi Jerry - good points in the article. I think you should soon write an article about MedPay portion of car insurance. My husband is a lawyer and has many cases where the medical specials exceed the MedPay coverage on the drivers' policies. It's possible to up the MedPay coverage on a policy for a modest increase in premiums, but most people don't know this until after they are in an accident and it's too late...
Amy P.
Thanks for the info, I'll look into it.

Jerry Reynolds
Jess L.
I strongly recommend that once you get the other drivers insurance information, if possible, contact their insurance company WHILE STILL AT THE SCENE and confirm the policy is still in force. Many drivers pay the first months premium, cancel the policy and keep the information to hand out if needed - but the policy is non-existent. If the policy is not in effect, then call 911 and insist officers come to the scene. Also use the smartphone to take photos of the drivers, occupants and vehicles.
And if the other driver agrees take pictures of the drivers license and insurance