What To Do If You’re In a Car Accident
Whether it’s someone else’s fault or yours, getting into a car accident will be stressful. Beyond just physical injury, you may also experience psychological trauma and it may be hard to make quick decisions in the aftermath. However, there are a number of things you need to if you find yourself responding after an accident.
1. Make sure everyone is safe.
First and foremost, check yourself and your passengers for serious injuries. If your car can still move, navigate it to a safe place off the road or out of traffic. Insurance agency State Farm recommends turning on your hazard lights and placing cones or warning triangles for extra visibility if you have them. If anyone is hurt, call an ambulance. Insurance company Geico recommends keeping a vehicle safety kit in your car, including a first aid kit, ropes, flares or flashlights and other emergency gear.
When you are safe, check on the passengers in the other car or cars, if it was a multiple car collision. In some states, you are required to provide assistance if you can.
2. Don’t leave.
In Kansas, it’s illegal to leave the scene of an accident. Taking off can cost you your license, result in heavy fines or possibly imprisonment, according to the Kansas Division of Motor Vehicles. Depending on where you are, you may be required to call the accident in to the local police department as well. If the accident resulted in injury or death or property damage of more than $1,000, you are required to report the accident in Kansas.
In Missouri, it’s illegal to leave the scene of an accident as well. You’re required to report accidents in Missouri if the accident happened less than a year ago, the accident involved an uninsured motorist and caused more than $500 in damage, or caused injury or death, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue. The state requires you to file a form with the Missouri Driver’s License Bureau.
Even if it’s not required, insurance company Esurance recommends calling the police to the scene anyway, as they can be helpful dealing with the elements of a crash, such as controlling traffic and determining fault.
3. Gather information.
Insurance company Esurance recommends taking the time to collect as much information as possible. Write down you and your passengers’ names, and gather the names of the passengers in the other car or cars. Jot down license plate numbers, the makes and models of all cars involved, and the location of the accident. Get the phone numbers for eyewitnesses and the badge numbers of any responding police officers as well.
Insurance company Geico recommends not revealing your insurance policy limits or admitting fault on an accident scene. Some states are non-fault states, like Michigan, but in others, police determine the fault for an accident that can be correspondent to insurance claims. Some insurance companies, like Geico, have smartphone apps that allow you to input information directly.
Insurance company State Farm notes not to sign any documents unless they are from the police or your insurance company, and to take photos of the accident scene if it is safe to do so.
4. Seek medical attention if necessary.
Sometimes the physical consequences of a car accident don’t show up until multiple days afterward: bruised ribs, a sprained wrist, or pulled muscles, for example. Make sure you seek the proper medical attention, as these injuries can be serious and long-lasting. In 2016, of about 6.6 million car crashes, 2.5 million people were injured, according to the National Highway Safety Transportation Board.
5. Keep a file.
Make sure you file all the information related to the crash in a single place afterward. Insurance paperwork, receipts for car work, medical bills and the information you gathered at the scene of the accident will help provide documentation when dealing with claims or legal action. A lawyer can help you work your way through the tangles of getting proper compensation from your insurance company, file a personal injury claim or deal with opposing claims if the other person in the accident files a claim against you.