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Being in a car accident is scary and not something that should be taken lightly. It is somehing that can happen to anyone, and is something I went through recently. In September, I was in a minor accident that involved another driver. I had no clue what to do, and I did the best I could to remember the basic guidelines.
Carinsurance.com states that if someone is an average driver and got their license when they were 16 years old, it is highly likely that they will experience some kind of crash by the time they’re 34. The National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicles crashes in 2016, and an estimated 4.6 million were seriously injured in accidents.
Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues a Motor Vehicle Crash Overview containing statistics on reported crashes during one year and compares it to prior years. They found that by averaging the car accident data from 2005 to 2015, they estimate that more than 5 million car accidents occur every year in the U.S. This amounts to around 15,913 accidents per day. However, this represents the number of collisions between vehicles or vehicles with fixed objects – not the number of vehicles involved total.
If it is your first accident, it is difficult to understand what to do and you could be taken advantage of. Whether you are in a fender bender or a major accident, there are guidelines to what you should do after a car accident.
First and foremost, move to a safe area if possible and do not leave the scene. Leaving can result in legal consequences, like fines or additional violations. If you’re on a busy highway, stay inside the car and wait for the police or an ambulance. It’s dangerous for passengers to stand along a freeway or other road with lots of traffic.
It is also vital that you make sure passengers are okay and that there are no injuries. If you collided with another car, check on them as well. It is important to check just in case you need to call an ambulance. Try to be cautious and polite, but do not admit fault.
The next step is to call the police. While the accident might not appear to be serious, the police should be called if any damage is done to either vehicle or if there are injuries. It helps to call the police because they can file a report that will impact the insurance company’s decisions when you make a claim. When they arrive, try to copy down the officer’s name, badge number and station they are coming from. This will help you get in contact with the responding officers if they are needed at a later time.
While you are waiting on the police, it is safe to go ahead and get information from other drivers involved. You should write down names, car insurance information, license plate numbers, time and date of the accident, and if possible, the make and model of the other car. These are some things the insurance companies will need to get everything in order. It is also helpful to write down weather and traffic conditions, and a description of any injuries or damage.
You should also give only the information listed above to other drivers. Do not allow your license or registration to be photographed. Do not provide your address or contact information to other drivers, passengers or witnesses. You should only exchange contact information, such as phone numbers, if the other drivers do not provide insurance information.
If there are any witnesses that stay behind at the scene, get their names and contact information.
Next, take pictures of everything. If you have a smart phone or camera, take photos to document the scene if it is safe to do so. Include pictures of: damage to your vehicle, damage to others’ vehicles, any damage to property, any objects at the scene (this includes accident debris, skid marks, fallen branches, etc.), street signs or other landmarks to identify the accident location, and any contributing factors to the accident such as obscured traffic signs.
Also, it is recommended that you get a copy of any accident reports filed by the police and other drivers to assist in settling your claim. You should also keep receipts of all expenditures, including transportation, parking costs and repair costs.
With these “guidelines” in mind, it will be easier to stay calm when you experience your first accident. Drive safe everyone.