Don’t Leave the Scene of the Accident
Stay at the scene where the accident occurred until you’ve exchanged information with the other driver and called the police, if necessary. If you leave the accident scene before the appropriate time, you can face significant criminal penalties as a hit-and-run driver.
Check on All Passengers in the Car
Safety comes first: assess your state and the health of everyone else in the car. Call 911 for medical help immediately for anyone who requires it. If any passenger is unconscious or has neck or back pain, avoid moving them and let medical professionals extract them from the crash.
Call the Police
There are many cases after an accident where you’ll need to call the police. If there’s physical injury, death or significant damage to private or public property, you’ll want the police to help you file a report at the scene. Take down the name and badge numbers of the police officers or sheriffs who respond so you can follow up with them after the accident. One thing you’ll want to obtain from them is a copy of the police report filed, for your records.
Exchange Information with the Other Driver(s)
Write down the names, phone numbers, addresses, license plate numbers, driver’s license numbers and insurance information from all drivers who were involved in the accident. You also want to take down the names, numbers, and addresses of any passengers in the other cars involved.
Although it’s important to be cooperative with other drivers, avoid apologizing for any role you may have played. You might admit a legal liability for what happened before all the details of the accident are clear. Also, in many states, fault doesn’t determine which driver’s insurer will pay for damages.
Talk to Witnesses at the Scene
After you’ve communicated with the other parties involved, take inventory of any witnesses on the scene. Sometimes, there are no witnesses. However, some accidents cause traffic hold-ups where you’re able to have a word with onlookers. Try to take down their names, numbers, and addresses. Ask each witness to describe what they saw happen. Ask if they’ve seen accidents at this scene before, as you may be able to use this information later.
Snap some quick photos of any damage your vehicle sustained. If you’re not injured, you can do this right away at the scene. However, it’s not too late to take photos later once your car has been towed or driven away. Your insurance company will want these pictures to help determine the total cost of damage to the car. If you have a picture of the car before the accident, you can include that as well to show the full extent of damages clearly.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Reporting the accident to your insurance company. This procedure may be different for each company. There may be a hotline you can call, or you may need to log onto their website and report the accident there. Tell them as much information as you have and describe the extent of any injuries you or your passengers obtained. It’s very important to tell the truth to your insurance company, or you could be denied coverage for lying. This is a good time to take out your copy of the police report if there was one, so you can confirm that your facts are correct about what happened and what laws (if any) were violated. You’ll also want to submit any pictures you have of your vehicle’s damage.
Hold onto Your Medical Records
If you endured injuries during the accident requiring medical attention, keep account of all the medical treatment you receive after the accident. Record the names of doctors, physical therapists and other medical professionals that provide you treatment and ask for copies of your medical reports and bills. Besides medical treatments and expenses, try to document how your injuries affect your daily life—including missed work, activities you can’t undertake and burdens placed on family members.
Get a Property Damage Valuation
You’ll want to have your own copy of the damage valuation from your insurance company. If you aren’t happy with the valuation of your vehicle, get one or more third-party quotes for vehicle repair or replacement.
Show these quotes to your insurance representative. If you can’t come to an agreement on the valuation, consider hiring an attorney.
Hire an Attorney
If there were any injuries involved in the accident, it’s a good idea to get an experienced attorney. They can maximize your recovery if you were injured, or adequately defend you if you’re the party at fault. Find an accident attorney who works on a contingency fee basis. This way, you’ll only owe your attorney if you get awarded damages or receive a settlement.