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What to Do if You've Been in a Car Accident

What to Do if You've Been in a Car Accident Team
UpdatedDec 1, 2010
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    3 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • Stop, breath and assess
  • When to call the police
  • Exchange information & document damage
  • When to contact insurance company

What to Do if You've Been in a Car Accident

Chances are you'll be involved in at least one car accident in your lifetime. Traffic accidents occur daily and range in severity. But regardless of how severe your traffic accident may be, there are a few steps everyone needs to follow in the aftermath of a car accident.

If you get into a car accident you need to:

1. Stop: Immediately after you get into an accident, stop. If you caused the accident, don't run. Take responsibility and acknowledge your error. Causing an accident and fleeing from the scene is a crime. If you're the one who's been hit, it's important that you also stop. If the individual who hit you reports that you ran from the accident scene, you can also get in serious trouble. So, regardless of whether you caused the accident or are the victim in an accident, stop and don't leave the accident scene.

2. Check for Injuries: Immediately after the accident, check yourself, your passengers, and the individual(s) in the other vehicle for injuries. If there are injuries that need medical attention, call 911. Before you even look at the damage done to your car, check everyone involved for injuries.

3. Call the Police (if necessary): If the accident is serious, or it's a hit and run situation, the authorities need to be notified. Most insurance companies require you to call the authorities in a hit and run situation if you want your damage to be covered.

Serious accidents sometimes require police involvement if the accident is backing up traffic or if debris is blocking the street. Minor fender benders, on the other hand, don't necessarily require police involvement.

4. Exchange Information: Regardless of if you're at fault or not, or the severity of the accident, you need to exchange information with the other party involved. You need to provide your name, phone number, address, license plate number, and your driver's license number. You also need to obtain this information from all individuals involved in the accident. Your car insurance company will need this information to resolve the incident.

5. Document Damage: If you have a camera on hand, take pictures of the damage. If you don't, write down details about the damage. Document what damage was done to your vehicle and the other vehicle(s) involved.

Have all parties involved in the accident sign the paper as proof that they agree on the damages done to each vehicle. If you hit a parked car and the owner can't be identified or found, leave a note with the appropriate information. If you don't, it can be considered a hit and run.

6. Contact Your Insurance Company (and possibly the DMV): Immediately after the accident, contact your insurance provider about the accident and provide all details regarding it. Also, if anyone was injured in the accident or the damage to the vehicle is $750 or higher, you need to report the incident to the DMV. If you don't, your license could be suspended.

Car accidents are not fun. If you ever find yourself involved in one, remember these steps. They will help you resolve the incident without the possibility of future repercussions or involvement of law enforcement.