Great news! If you’ve made it this far in our Car Crash Coursework series, you’re well on your way to being able to handle any accident you may encounter. So far, we’ve learned about avoiding preventable accidents and being prepared for collisions we can’t possibly prevent.
Today, we’re going to talk about keeping a level head while you’re on the scene of an accident. While it’s not always easy, our step-by-step guide can help you get though one of life’s most stressful situations.
STEP ONE: STOP
As soon as another vehicle makes contact with yours, you are legally obligated to stop. Even if it’s a minor accident or “fender bender,” you should take a moment to assess your situation. Note the location of your vehicle and check yourself and your passengers for injuries.
Important note: If the collision is severe and you or your passengers have significant injuries, call 9-1-1 immediately and do not try to move unless you are in immediate danger.
STEP TWO: DITCH THE DANGER
If everyone in the car seems alright, the vehicle is drivable, and you are blocking traffic, feel free to move to the shoulder or another safe space. Once you are there, you may want to consider turning on your flashers and securing the accident with safety cones or road flares.
In the event that you cannot move your car, turn on your hazard lights and safely exit the vehicle. Use your cones to indicate the obstruction to other drivers.
STEP THREE: CALL THE POLICE
Once you are out of harm’s way, dial 9-1-1 or phone the local police station. No matter how minor, car crashes are considered emergencies. The police should always come to the scene if possible, even if they leave ambulances and fire trucks behind. Responding officers will also file an accident report, which is required for some insurance claims and will serve as official documentation of the accident.
STEP FOUR: EXCHANGE INFORMATION
While you are waiting for help, feel free to talk to the other party. It’s alright for you to check on their wellbeing, but you should never apologize or discuss fault. If you believe the accident was caused by road-rage, be extra careful about engaging with the other driver. Regardless of what you discuss, you should collect the following information from the other driver.
- Names and contact information of everyone involved in the crash, including passengers
- Insurance information (company name, policy number, etc.)
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number
- Agreed-upon location of accident
- Make, model, and year of vehicle
- Color of vehicle
If the police arrive before you finish this exchange, you feel uncomfortable or unsafe talking to the other driver, or even if the other driver refuses to disclose this information, don’t worry! Responding officers will be able to get it for you.
STEP FIVE: TALK TO THE POLICE
When talking to the responding officer(s), use the three C’s – calm, clear, and concise. If you need to take a minute to compose yourself, simply ask the officer in charge. Police officers are trained as first responders, so they may even have techniques to help you cool down. Then, tell the officer(s) what happened. Use clear, concise language and speak to the facts of the case. Don’t speculate about what the other driver may have been doing or answer any questions you do not know the answer to. If a police officer asks you if you’re injured, for example, it’s totally fine to say, “I don’t know.” Sometimes, injuries present themselves a few hours, or even days, after the crash.
STEP SIX: DOCUMENT THE ACCIDENT
Once the police have your statement, request a copy of their report. While you are on the scene, you should also gather evidence of the collision. Take photos of both vehicles, write down the names of officers, and double-check your paperwork. This is also a great time to talk to witnesses and gather their contact information.
STEP SEVEN: CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Before you leave the scene, it is a smart idea to call your insurance company. If you answer their questions while you are standing next to the accident, you’re more likely to give them accurate information. Additionally, insurance adjusters might point out evidence you may have missed and ask questions you hadn’t considered. Once you feel confident with your claim, you are welcome to leave the site of the collision.
WHERE TO NEXT?
We’re glad you asked! Tune in next week for our final lesson, which will teach you how to deal with the aftermath of an accident. Not only will you find out where to go immediately after leaving the scene, but you’ll also learn valuable information about hiring an attorney.
If you want to skip ahead, simply schedule a free consultation online, or hop on a phone call with one of our lawyers at 918-492-7674.