What to Do and What Not to Do After a Car Accident
Whether you’re involved in a minor accident or a serious car crash, your actions following the incident can reduce your risk of injury and make filing an insurance claim much easier. Here’s what to do – and what not to do – after you’ve been involved in a car accident.
Document the accident.
If you don’t record what happened, the details of the accident could come down to your word against the other driver’s. Make sure you have a notepad and pen or pencil in your car at all times. If an accident occurs, write down the exact location of the accident, the time of day the accident occurred, the road conditions at the time, and an account of what happened. Take photos of the damage to both cars. If your phone doesn’t have a camera, consider keeping a disposable one in the glove compartment of your car. having photographic proof is a good way to protect yourself against con artists who might claim you caused an accident.
Get the other driver’s information.
Even if no one was injured and there is no damage to either vehicle, you should exchange contact information and their pertinent information with the other driver involved in the incident. You never know what may happen in the future as a result of the accident. You might discover hidden damage to your car, such as a damaged axle or a bent control arm. If you don’t have the information of the other person involved in the accident, your insurance provider could refuse to cover the cost of the repair. After a car accident, you should record the following information:
- The other driver’s contact information (name, address, phone number)
- The other driver’s insurance company and policy number
- The driver’s vehicle identification number (VIN)
Report the accident.
If you’re involved in a very minor accident and no one is hurt, calling 911 probably isn’t necessary. If you’re not absolutely sure that no one was hurt or there was no damage to either care, you need to notify the police. Leaving the scene of an accident without notifying the authorities can result in hefty criminal charges. Depending on your state, you could even be charged with a hit-and-run. To find the regulations in your state check the website of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Report the accident, even if no other driver was involved.
If no other driver is involved, as is the case with 3 of 10 automobile accidents, you should still report the incident – even if the damage to your car seems minor and you don’t feel injured. You may feel embarrassed about having run into a tree or guard rail, but at least you’ll have an official record of the accident if you experience car troubles or medical problems in the future.
Even if you know the accident was your fault, say nothing. Don’t apologize to the other driver. Your interactions with the other driver should be limited to the courteous exchange of personal information. Save your account of what happened for the police, your lawyer, and your insurer. In fact, you should talk to a good car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Ignore possible injuries.
Even if you feel fine right after the accident, you could later develop migraines or neck or back pain related to the incident. Report the accident to your doctor, even if you don’t believe you suffered any injuries. If you develop severe or chronic injuries, you will need to prove to your insurer that you sought medical care following the accident.
Lie about the details of the accident.
Be as honest and accurate as possible when giving your statement to the police. If a police officer or your insurance provider catches even a small inconsistency in your statement, your entire statement may be deemed untruthful.
Skip medical appointments.
Your medical file is part of the key evidence that will help you in your car accident lawsuit. Without your doctor’s documentation, you’ll have no evidence to use in court. You need a doctor’s confirmation of the nature and severity of your injuries. Don’t miss any of your medical appointments.
Gossip about the accident.
This one of the key mistakes to avoid that can hurt your case if you are involved in a car accident. If the police or a judge finds out about even minor inconsistencies in your account of the accident, your entire lawsuit could be affected. You should particularly avoid discussing the incident on social media sites.
While you might be tempted to use social media to blame the other driver, vent your frustrations with your lawyer or insurance company, or just blow off steam, keep in mind that anything you say online can be used as evidence against you in court. If you need to talk about the accident, confide in trusted friends and family only.
Michael Fleming has worked within the auto insurance industry for 25 years. He spent many years on the ground in a call centre before heading into management roles. He blogs about insurance and cars in general, combining his working experience with his passion for fast cars!