Car Accidents 101
Anytime we are involved in a car accident, the impact of the collision causes an immediate rush of adrenaline, fear and anxiety. This is a normal psychological reaction to the influx of stress that we feel, and it can often be difficult to reign it in and focus on what needs to be done. However, in the moments following an accident, there are specific steps that must be taken. Just as importantly, there are things we should never do.
Before you ever get into a car accident, you should be prepared for one. By stocking your car with emergency items, you will be prepared for other situations as well such as a flat tire or medical emergency. Make sure that you always have the following items with you: an emergency kit (including backup prescription medications), pen and paper, disposable camera, emergency contact numbers, and traffic cones, reflector triangles or roadside flares.
What to Do After an Accident
The very first thing you should do if youíre involved in a car accident is pull over to the side of the road, if this is feasible. When you leave your car in the line of traffic, the potential to cause additional accidents and injuries increases. Once you are safely to the side, take a moment to collect your thoughts and then do the following:
● Get out of the car and immediately set up hazard indicators (lights, traffic cones, flares).
● Check yourself, your passengers and occupants of the other vehicle(s) for injuries. If there are injuries, immediately call an ambulance.
● Call the police, regardless of the amount of visible damage. This helps with insurance claims, and police presence often keeps a situation from escalating.
● Exchange information with the other driver(s), including name, address, telephone number, vehicle information, and e-mail. Also write down the insurance companyís name and telephone number, and the insuredís policy number.
● Take pictures of all sides of each vehicle involved in the collision, including your own, as well as the surrounding area (intersections, street signs). Many people rely on their cell phones to take pictures, but a disposable camera is a good backup plan in case your cell phone is damaged in the accident.
● Report the accident to your insurance company right away, even if there appears to be no damage or injuries. If there is a cause to file a claim against the other driver, you will have no recourse once the statute of limitations expires.
Finally, remember to be polite regardless of who you believe to be at fault. However, even if you do think you are to blame for the accident, donít admit it to the other driver. There are other actions that should be avoided as well.
What Not to Do After an Accident
The sense of fear and anxiety we feel immediately after a car accident can be overwhelming and difficult to control. However, there are actions we should avoid at all costs because engaging in them will escalate the situation unnecessarily. After a car accident, you should never do the following:
Fail to Document: Always take pictures, exchange information, and document location and vehicle information.
Fail to Call the Police: Do this regardless of perceived lack of injuries or damage. Damage isnít always visible and injuries sometimes take days to manifest.
Behave Aggressively: Even if you need to stay in your car until the police arrive, avoid escalating the situation with anger.
A car accident will rattle the nerves of even the most measured person. By knowing what to do and what not to do in that situation, you will get through it faster and with much less stress.