What to Do in a Car Accident: 7 Step Guide

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about auto insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. ...

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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What to Do in a Car Accident: 7 Step Guide

Steps to take after an accident

It can be extremely difficult to stay calm and collected when misfortune strikes. Car crashes happen suddenly and sometimes even violently, and it’s easy to experience shock after an event like this.

This is exactly why it is important to not only drive safely, but to also thoroughly mentally prepare for what to do in the event of a car accident. Hopefully, even if you are shaken by the event, the broad strokes concerning what to do will stick in your mind.

Although this step-by-step guide is primarily speaking to drivers, it is just as vital that passengers and passersby are also aware of what to do in the event of a traffic accident.

And, most importantly, you need to make sure you have sufficient car insurance. If you don’t yet have coverage, need to update your policy, or want to change providers, use our free tool to compare quotes now.

#1 – Assess Your Injuries

The first thing you need to do following a car crash is to assess whether you are injured, and if so, where and how badly. This needs to come first for the same reason that flight attendants instruct you to affix your own mask before others’ in the event of an emergency on a plane: you cannot help others properly if you don’t help yourself first.

In fact, by not tending to your own well-being first, you would not only be putting yourself in danger, but you would be putting others in further danger as well because you will have become a liability.

If you do find that you are seriously injured, ask someone to call 911, or do so yourself.

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#2 – Check on Others

If you have determined that you are in the condition to do so, check to see if anyone else was hurt in the accident. Begin by checking on the state of those in your vehicle, and then move on to pedestrians and people in the other affected vehicles.

#3 – Move Your Vehicle

Vehicles or other obstructions on the road are a hazard that could cause further accidents. Depending on the law in your state, and if you are able to do so, move your vehicle to the side of the road and ensure that it is completely stationary. However, do not leave the scene of the accident if there is any damage or anyone is hurt. That is illegal.

If possible, find any means you can to warn other drivers; your hazard lights are a great start.

Road flares, reflectors, or other safe ways of alerting others on the road will also be useful if they are available to you. For this reason, such items are great to have prepared in an emergency kit.

Be especially wary if the accident took place on a high-speed road and/or somewhere where an oncoming driver’s view of the accident may be obstructed, such as around a turn or over a hill.

#4 – Call the Police

For more serious accidents, it should absolutely be a priority to call the police. However, calling the police may be a good idea even for minor collisions.

The value of police on the scene is not just measured by their response to critical injury; they also will be able to thoroughly document the incident and ensure that everyone on the scene is properly taken care of.

Official police documentation can be especially helpful when it comes to reporting the incident to insurance providers.

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#5 – Gather Information

While you wait for emergency personnel to arrive, gather information about the incident.

Try to remember what you can about the accident, take pictures, and get the names, contact information, license plate numbers, and insurance information of everyone involved.

Don’t overlook uninjured pedestrians; their names and contact information should be documented as well. Their statements could prove extremely valuable.

#6 – Do Not Admit Fault

Even if you feel confident that the accident was, in fact, your fault, the scene of the accident is not the time to announce it. Gather information and describe events truthfully, but do not admit any fault for the incident until you have spoken with your insurance provider.

Wherever possible, avoid the topic of fault in general when speaking to anyone on the scene, including police and other first responders.

Only give facts about what happened. It may even be helpful to speak in terms of the vehicles as the acting forces rather than the drivers, e.g. “The car swerved” rather than “the driver” or “I” swerved.

It is your insurance company’s job to help and protect you. They will determine who was at fault for the accident and whether it will affect your insurance rate based on the information provided.

#7 – File an Insurance Claim

File a claim with your insurance company as soon as you can following the incident. Getting the claims and negotiation process started as quickly as possible is very valuable.

It is especially helpful if you are able to make the call at the scene, as long as it doesn’t impede police investigation and other first response efforts.

By making the call while still on the scene, it will be easier to find and provide information that your insurance provider asks for.

If you think skipping out on insurance will save you money, you’re wrong. Accidents happen more often than most people would like to admit.

Investing in auto insurance is the first step any responsible motorist should take. Begin comparing the best policies in your area by entering your zip code below.

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