I recently was involved in a minor car accident (and by “involved in” I mean “a victim of”) and it was my first time as the driver. I was in a bit of a daze (even though both vehicles were moving so slowly when they collided that if they slowed any more they’d have been in reverse) and I could hardly call my mommy—though I really wanted to, let me admit—but I stumbled my way through the exchange of information. If only I had looked into writing this article before that accident I’d have been much more prepared and on-the-ball, but no one was hurt and it all worked out OK…my little Chevy Cavalier had minimal damage and the other drivers brand new, right-off-the-lot Ford something-or-another had even less damage, so we made the poor decision to not call the police. As you can see, there was plenty I did wrong!
So learn from my mistakes! Keep reading to learn what to do if you get into a car accident.
If you’re reading this then hopefully you haven’t already had an accident and are seeing if you’ve done everything right in the perfect 22/20 vision of hindsight, but instead preparing in the event that an accident should happen in the future.
If you prepare yourself ahead of time—as accidents DO happen (that’s why pencils have erasers, after all)—then you will be that much more ready in case you are in an accident. You want to make sure you have the items in your car that will come in handy: a flashlight, a disposable camera (can’t always rely on your smart phone), your insurance documents (organized and accessible), and a working pen with paper.
Once the accident occurs, it is important to try to keep a cool, clear head. Even a minor accident will ruin your day and will leave you in a bit of a daze. You want to drive both cars safely out of traffic (if possible) and first inquire about injuries. Check yourself and your passengers to make sure no one was hurt and then check the other vehicle(s)—and it is important to remember that if there are any injuries at all, even if you think they are just minor (like a headache), call an ambulance or drive to an emergency room or doctor to have everyone checked out.
After you have assessed the extent of injuries, you will want to assess the damage done to your car and other cars involved in the accident. This is where your camera (and flashlight if it’s night time) can come in handy. The more you can document accurately, the better. Take shots of all damage down to your vehicle from multiple perspectives. Take notes, too, about the details of the accident while it’s fresh in your head, and also details of the damage.
You also want to call the police (no matter how minor the accident) to file a police report. It is important that you not discuss the accident with anyone but the police. In your distressed state, you do not want to be influenced in the heat of the moment as to the details of the accident and you definitely do not want to admit blame or liability.
While you are waiting for the police to arrive, get as much information about the other driver(s) as possible (and it’s OK to give out your own info too, as this is normal). You will want to exchange names, phone numbers, and addresses of everyone involved in the accident, and also insurance information (company and policy number) of the other driver(s). You also want to jot down all the information you can about the other cars involved: year, make, model, color, etc; as well as the license plate and vehicle identification number (VIN).
Your next step will be to call your own insurance company and get on the line with an agent. This is even better to do when the police arrive to file the report, as police can give your agent more details regarding the information, which can streamline “at-blame” investigations. Then just wait for the claim to be settled and get your car repaired with new or used car parts!
It will all happen incredibly fast and almost seem like it never happened at all, so the more prepared you are before it happens, the better off you’ll be IF it happens. Of course, knowing what to do in the event of an accident should not hinder your desire to stay out of accidents! So drive safe and be smart!