With the complete disruption that comes after an automobile accident, it can be hard to focus and take care of things that need your attention at the moment. However, knowing what to do can help reduce injuries, save lives, and ultimately simplify the claims process.
This checklist includes the important steps you should take if you are involved in an accident.
If safe to do so, move your vehicle out of harm’s way to prevent further damage, injuries, or chain-reaction accidents.
If your vehicle cannot be moved, turn on the hazard lights and close the doors. Do not leave the scene of the accident.
Check for injuries and call 911.
Even if there are no injuries, it is important to call 911 and have police come to file an accident report. This is necessary in case the other driver sues for damages or medical injuries. There also may be more damage to the vehicle than originally thought. Ask the responding officer how to obtain a copy of the incident report, if he or she doesn’t provide one at the scene. Also, get the officer’s name and badge number.
Arguing, venting, or losing your temper might escalate the situation.
Be courteous to others at the scene.
You’ll get more goodwill from others if you treat them with respect. And remember—every person is a potential witness.
Be consistent in your version of the accident.
Sometimes it’s tempting to embellish or dramatize the details. Simpler is better.
Gather information about what happened.
Note the road and weather conditions as well as the location and time of day. Provide as much detail as time and circumstances will allow. Do not wait to perform this step. Memories fade quickly and your immediate recollection of events could prove to be critical in handling your claim.
Talk to witnesses.
If there were any witnesses to the accident, write down their names and contact information.
Photograph the accident scene if it is safe to do so.
Capture images from multiple angles, from a distance, and up close.
Exchange information with the other driver including name, phone number, insurance company and policy number, and vehicle license plate number.
Be prepared to provide the same information for the police report as well as the following:
- Description of the accident
- Location and time of the accident
- Damage and injuries
- Any witness information
Do not discuss the specifics of the accident with anyone other than the police and your insurance representative.
Remain objective. Do not admit fault or accept blame. Don’t discuss the extent of auto insurance coverage you have with the other driver.
Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible.
The longer you wait, the harder it is to remember details.
Keep a file with notes and copies of any claim forms.
Keep track of the name, title, and contact information of everyone you speak with during the claims process. Complete any forms you receive immediately and accurately.
Click here to download a printable version of this checklist to keep in your vehicles.