It is impossible to stress how much preparedness can impact the aftermath of a disaster. Should the unthinkable occur at an unexpected moment, which it generally does, knowing in advance what you would do under such circumstances can make a huge difference in determining the outcome of events. Immediately after an accident, you could be quite shaken up or even in a state of shock. Having a printed checklist handy in your glove compartment can help you move through the process more smoothly, while protecting yourself from potential lawsuits or erroneous clams. Here are 5 important steps to take in the aftermath of a car accident, according to Glen Lerner of Lerner and Rowe, a personal injury legal firm.
Cut the Ignition
Immediately after any car accident, the first thing to do is turn off your car. This may seem obvious right now; however, it is not the first thing you may think about after your vehicle collides with another vehicle or object.
Check Everyone for Injuries
Check yourself for injury before checking passengers in your car. Also, verify that nobody in the other vehicle or vehicles is injured. If anyone is injured, call 911. Use blankets and basic first aid to help any car crash victims, but do not move anyone who is unconscious or seriously injured, unless there are smoke and flames coming from the car.
Call the Police
Your best protection against inflated or erroneous claims by another party in the future is to have the police document the scene. When the damage to your car is going to cost more than your deductible, it’s very important to have a police report filed.
By calling the police, you will also have the other driver’s name, license plate and insurance information, which you will need when filing a claim. Having the police there will also remove the hassles involved with trying to get information from an uncooperative or inebriated driver. If the accident occurred on a turnpike or state highway, call the State Police.
Use a digital camera, camera phone or disposable camera to photograph the scene. When possible, move cars involved in fender benders or minor accidents from busy roadways or intersections. Have emergency road flares on hand in your trunk to warn other drivers of the disabled cars. Although there will be a police report available later, you will still need information for your insurance company.
Exchange driver’s licenses and insurance cards with the other driver. Write down the name and address of the driver, insurance company name and the policy number. Also write down the names of the other car’s passengers. Also note the license plate information and state and make and model of the other driver’s car.
Make a note of the name of the police officer and badge number, as well as the location where you can retrieve a copy of the police report.
Call the Tow Truck
If your car needs to be towed, call a tow truck. Use the emergency roadside assistance service of your car insurance company, or another roadside assistance company. When you don’t have either, the police will help arrange a tow. Also make arrangements for you and your passengers to get home or continue to your destination.
Call Your Insurance Company
As soon as you are home or at work and settled in, call your insurance company to report the accident. Provide the insurance company with the information they need and make your own note of when you called, the agent’s name and a claim number if one is provided.