SCREECH! CRASH! WHAT TO DO NEXT - 10 Steps to Take Immediately After a Car Crash

 Author: Scott Fitzgerald, Law Clerk

Experts estimate that one in every eleven drivers will be involved in a motor vehicle accident this year.[1] There are over six million reported car crashes in the United States each year, and many other minor accidents that go unreported.[2] Yet most people do not know what to do if they are involved in a motor vehicle collision.

In the aftermath of a car crash, there is often chaos and confusion.  Without planning, it can be difficult to think of what do to.   Knowing in advance the right steps to protect your interests is critically important.  Here are ten steps to take if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident:

1.    Call 911.  The operator will ask if anyone is injured, so the vital first step is to check on anyone who might be injured.  Notifying the police is required by law in most states before you can leave the scene if anyone is injured.  Even if it's clear that no one is hurt, it is still a good idea to involve the authorities.

2.    Keep Safety in Mind Before Authorities Arrive.  If there are no injuries, try to avoid any.  Move all cars to the side of the road or off the road wherever possible.  Many accidents occur at the scene of earlier crashes, and moving out of the intersection or travel lanes helps minimize that risk.  Turn on your hazard lights and set out cones or flares.

3.    Exchange Information.  Always write down the name, address, phone number, drivers license number, license plate number, insurance company, and insurance policy number of all the other drivers involved in the accident.

4.    Do Not Admit Fault.  Do not admit fault, either to the other driver or the police.  The issue of fault is complex and often a legal question.  However, always cooperate with the police officer at the scene.  In the immediate  aftermath of the crash, you may blame yourself. But you may in fact be blameless, because you may not realize what the other driver did to cause the collision. 

5.    Get Contact Information for Witnesses.  Identify witnesses and obtain their contact information.  Write down the police officer's name and badge number to help you acquire a copy of the accident report later.

6.    Take Pictures.  Many cell phones today have cameras, so use them to take pictures of the accident scene before the vehicles are moved.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and can be important evidence for a legal claim.

7.    Seek Medical Attention.  Even if the rescue squad does not transport you to the hospital, if you are hurt it is imperative to seek medical attention immediately.  Keep in mind that the "adrenalin rush" of the excitement of a crash can chemically mask pain immediately afterwards, so you may want to be "checked out" anyway at the emergency room.

8.    Take Notes.  If you are able, draw a diagram of the accident scene and write out an explanation of how the crash occurred.  Even if you cannot do this at the scene, at least do this as soon as you can while your memory is fresh.  Your ntoes can serve as vital memory aids later on, as the resolution of any insurance or legal claim can take months or even years.

9.    Call Your Insurance Agent to Report the Accident.  Most insurance policies require the insured to report all accidents within a reasonable time.  Give a brief description of what happened, but do not give a recorded statement.

10. Call an Attorney to protect your legal rights.

***Click here to request or download an accident guide to keep in your glove compartment box.

About the Author: Scott Fitzgerald is a law clerk with Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. This article is brought to you by the Charlottesville car crash attorneys of the personal injury law firm. If you have been involved in a car crash, call an experienced car crash attorney in our Charlottesville, Virginia office or any of our eight Virginia personal injury law office locations.


[1] Estimate from the National Safety Council for 2010; see "See What to Do When You are Involved in a Car Crash" at http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/Resources/Documents/What_to_Do_When_You_Are_Involved_In_a_Car_Crash2.pdf

[2] See NHTSA statistics, http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx.

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