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How to Respond at the Scene of an Accident

Auto accidents happen all too often. Given the large number of vehicles on the road, it’s no surprise that accidents occur. Even a minor accident can cause you to go into a state of shock. That’s why it is important to be prepared and know what to do if you are involved in one yourself. Making the right decisions at the scene of an accident is critical, and may even save a life.

  1. Calm Yourself

    Take a moment to calm yourself down. Take deep breaths and gather your thoughts. You will probably experience a surge of adrenaline flowing through your body. You may even be angry at the other driver if you think they caused the accident, but don’t let your emotions get the better of you. It is very important that you calm yourself in order to take the right actions and to make rational decisions.

  2. Pull over to the side of the road

    If you are not already on the side of the road, move your vehicle safely to the side of the road if you can and turn off the ignition. Put your vehicle hazard lights on. You don’t want to create another hazard for yourself or for other drivers.

  3. Make sure no one in your vehicle is hurt

    Before you do anything more, check to see if anyone in your vehicle is hurt. If someone is injured, do not move them as this may cause further injury. If someone is injured or non-responsive, call 911 immediately and request emergency medical care.

  4. Get out of the car

    If it’s safe to do so, and provided you are not injured, get out of the vehicle. Slowly open your door and be careful not to step into oncoming traffic.

  5. Check if anyone in any other vehicle is hurt

    If anyone in another other vehicle involved in the accident is hurt or non-responsive, call 911 immediately and request emergency medical care.

  6. Call the police

    Call the police. The police will not always attend the scene of an accident, especially if it is minor and there are no injuries, but you should let the police make this determination. Sometimes a person involved in an accident might prefer not to get the police involved, but this may cause problems for you later on, especially if you have to file an insurance claim. A police report provides proof of the accident together with the relevant facts, including whether or not any driving infractions were issued.

    When the police arrive, you should cooperate fully with them. The police can also help you if someone involved in the accident is not willing to exchange information or appears intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

    Don’t forget to take a note of the names and badge numbers of all officers in attendance so that you or your insurance company can make any follow up enquiries if necessary.

  7. Do not admit fault

    DO NOT apologize or admit fault to the other party. Do not talk to the other party about what happened or what went wrong. There can be many factors involved in determining fault, and you may not even be aware of the most important of those as far as your accident is concerned. For example, fault can be influenced by:

    • Applicable traffic laws;
    • Any defective vehicles;
    • Any defective traffic signals;
    • Any defective or missing signage;
    • Driver impairment.

    If a police officer issues you with a ticket, do not assume from that, or indicate in response to that, that you are at fault. In all circumstances you should consult an attorney before you pay any fine or plead guilty to an offense.

  8. Exchange information with the other driver and passengers involved in the accident

    Be sure to gather the following information from the driver of each vehicle involved in the accident:

    • The name of the driver and any passengers;
    • The make, model and color of the vehicle;
    • The license plate number of the vehicle;
    • The name of their insurance company;
    • The name of the policyholder as specified on their insurance card;
    • The policy number as specified on their insurance card; and
    • Their phone number.

    You should ask to see the relevant documents and write down the details yourself. Do not trust the other party to provide you with the correct information. You should also ask to see their driver’s license and take a note of the important details. The more information you gather the better.

    You should also provide the other driver with your information.

  9. Look around for witnesses

    If someone nearby saw the accident, ask him or her for their name and contact details. You may need them later to support your version of events.

  10. Take photographs

    If you have a camera with you, or even just your cell phone, take photographs of the accident scene before any vehicles are towed away. If you don’t have a camera, make a quick sketch of the scene and any notes to help you remember the location of the vehicles, skid marks, damage caused, and any visible injuries to anyone involved.

  11. Go to hospital and get checked out

    If you are injured or feel any pain you should go to hospital to get checked out. It is far better to be over cautious. It may help in any related insurance claim afterwards, especially if you suffer ongoing pain or suffering as a result of the accident.

  12. Call Your Insurance Company

    You should notify the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible, preferably within 12 hours. Provide your insurance company with the details you gathered and a copy of any police report. Because the accident is still very recent, you may still be experiencing some shock. Do not provide your insurer with a recorded statement at this time.

As time passes after a car accident, you could be affected in a number of ways. Medical symptoms which were completely absent immediately following the accident may suddenly appear, and expenses which you did not anticipate may arise. You may even suffer emotional consequences from the accident, and perhaps take time off work. In all cases you should keep a record of these things and make diary notes of how the accident affects your day to day living.

How Not To Respond

  • Do not leave the scene of an accident. In most states it is a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident before you receive permission from the police. The consequences of doing so can be serious.

  • Do not refuse a breath test if asked by the police at the scene of the accident. In some states you can automatically lose your license for refusing a test, even if you haven’t consumed any alcohol.

  • Do not provide false information to the police or the other parties involved.

  • Do not assume the police report will be fully accurate and contain all the necessary information. Be prepared to complete an accident report at the police station if necessary. It will help you in an insurance settlement or claim. If you are asked to sign a statement, make sure you agree with everything in it. Don’t be afraid to challenge the content and have it corrected before you sign it.