While we often talk of car or automobile “accidents,” in truth, there is usually no such thing. Why? Because by definition, an accident is an event that occurs without a party to blame. And most car crashes, even incidents that involve a single automobile, normally have an element of blame or fault. That’s why we’re big believers in adopting a defensive driving stance every time we get behind the wheel.
But regardless of the terminology used, be it traffic accident, motor vehicle collision, motor vehicle accident, car accident, automobile accident, or car crash, once they happen, its up to drivers and their insurance company to deal with the ramifications. While learning how to drive defensively is a step we recommend all drivers take, we also know that despite their best efforts, there are times when they’re simply unable to avoid an accident.
So what do you do after you’ve been in a crash? Let’s start pre-crash, because being prepared before you’re involved in an accident is an important step to take.
First, you should have a good understanding of the details of your car insurance policy. While we actually encourage consumers to read their policy fully, including any addendums or state-specific details, we do realize that like mortgages, most won’t read them in full. We’re convinced that most drivers have never read their insurance policies in full, but knowing important things, like what types of coverage your policy provides, what sorts of coverage it will not provide.
For example, if your car is rendered inoperable after an accident, does your insurance cover towing to a repair center? Do you have rental reimbursement to provide you with a car while yours is being repaired? Its a bad idea disregard these types of questions, as you do not want to wait until you’ve been in an accident to find out the answer to them.
Another part of being prepared is having your documentation in place. Make sure you always carry your driver’s license, and have your car’s registration and proof of insurance safely at hand. And with that, let’s dive right into our 10 point checklist of what you should do when you’re involved in a crash with another car.
10 Point Checklist: What to do if you’re in an crash with another car
- As soon as an accident occurs, stop your vehicle. If it is not safe to stop immediately, do so as soon as it is possible. Under no circumstances should you leave the scene of an accident.
- Move the car to the side of the road if it is safe and legal to do so. Some states and/or jurisdictions make it illegal to move a vehicle after an accident before the police arrive.
- Get occupants and yourself out of the roadway. If you were able to move to the shoulder or side of the road, staying in the car may be the safest option for occupants.
- Determine if you’ve been injured and find out if others have been injured.
- Call the police/911. If anyone is injured, call 911. In most areas of the country, calling 911 will suffice. If it is not a serious accident and no emergency medical assistance is required, the 911 operators may give you another number to call.
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver.
- Gather all information you can at the scene. This includes photographs, details on the cars involved including make, model and color. If there are witnesses, try and obtain their contact information.
- Cooperate fully with law enforcement. Answer their questions to the best of your ability and truthfully.
- Once you leave the scene of the accident, write as detailed an account of the events of the accident as possible. Notes and information you gathered at the scene should assist you in this step.
- Call your insurance company, use their online portal or their smartphone application to inform them of the incident. Even if you do not intend on filing a claim, you should still contact them to discuss and report the accident.