The U.S. sees more than 6 million car accidents each year.
From minor fender benders to multi-vehicle wrecks, these accidents claim tens of thousands of lives each year.
If you’ve ever been in an accident, you know how scary it can be. Whether you’re the victim or at fault, you’ll be feeling scared, nervous, anxious, and confused in the moments after the wreck.
But it’s important to take a breath and stay focused on doing what you need to after the wreck is over. Keep reading to learn what you should do after an accidental car accident.
Never Leave the Scene
No matter how minor an accident may seem, the last thing you should do is leave the scene without talking to the other drivers, and in most cases, the police.
Leaving the scene of an accident is not only dangerous, but also illegal. Depending on the circumstances, you could even be charged with a felony for leaving the scene of an accident that caused an injury or death.
Even if you don’t think that the accident caused any damage to your vehicle or others involved, it’s important to stop immediately and talk to other drivers.
Move to Safety
While it is important to stay at the scene, before you and the other driver swap information or call the police, you need to move yourself to safety.
Sometimes the danger of an accident comes long after the smoke has settled. For instance, if you get into a fender bender in the middle of a busy highway, staying in your vehicle could be dangerous.
If another car driving on the highway fails to see that you and any other cars have come to a stop, there could be another, even worse collision.
Even on a quiet road, standing around your damaged vehicle can be very dangerous.
Staying in your damaged car will put you in serious danger if gas begins leaking from the vehicle or if a fire breaks out. Standing near your vehicle in the road could also leave you vulnerable to getting hit by other cars on the road.
If you are physically able to get out of your vehicle, move to a safe space as soon as possible.
Some states or busy highways encourage drivers to move their vehicles to the shoulder after minor accidents. This helps prevent additional wrecks, and also keep traffic flowing.
Whether you choose to move your car right away or not, get yourself and anyone else involved in the accident to a safe spot as soon as you can.
Check for Injuries
Once you’ve gotten to a safe spot, check with everyone involved to see if there are any injuries.
While bumps and bruises might not be something you need to deal with right away, more serious injuries could require an ambulance, which you’ll want to call for as soon as possible.
More than 3 million people are injured in car accidents in the U.S. each year. While calling the police and consulting with a lawyer after a wreck is important, getting medical care for any car accident victims is the single most important thing you can do.
Get a Police Report
After checking yourself and anyone else involved in the accident for injuries, the next step on the car accident checklist is to call the police.
Having a police report detailing what happened in an accident is important.
Police not only take a look at the accident, but they also talk with all involved parties. They take statements and put together everything they see and hear to determine what really happened, to the best of their abilities.
If you were the victim of the wreck, having a police report will help you get justice from the driver at fault. You may need the police report if you take your case to court. If the accident happens in CA, you can access the California police accident report online by entering the incident’s date, ZIP code, and the car’s VIN.
Your insurance provider will also want to see the report. Trying to file a claim without a police report can be a challenge, as the insurance provider might question whether all damage or injuries were really the result of that wreck.
Even if you are at fault, getting a police report is still a good idea. Having an accurate account of what happens can help keep the other involved driver or drivers from over-embellishing their account of the wreck.
You’ll still need to provide the police report to your insurance provider.
Call a Lawyer
If you’re uninjured and waiting for police to arrive or for a tow truck to move your vehicle, it’s a good idea to go ahead and call your lawyer.
When you’re a victim of an accident, letting your lawyer know what’s going on will ensure that they’re prepared if you wind up having to fight to get compensation for your injuries and damage.
If you caused the accident, it’s even more important to consult your lawyer as soon as you can.
He or she can walk you through what you need to do to keep from making the situation worse.
If you don’t already have a lawyer on your speed dial, it might be a good time to find one. Check out this truck accident lawyer advice to learn what to ask a potential lawyer before you hire them to defend you.
The questions on this list will help you decide whether a lawyer is the right choice for you.
Dealing with an Accidental Car Crash
Whether you’re at fault or a victim, dealing with an accidental car crash is stressful. Even before you leave the scene of the accident, you might be dealing with injuries, worried about the condition of your car, or wondering if your insurance will cover the damage.
Following this car accident checklist and staying as calm as possible will help you make sure that you stay safe and do what needs to be done at the scene to make sure that the situation doesn’t get any worse.
Looking for more tips for dealing with accidents and other legal situations? Check out our “Finance and Law” section for other topics!