Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

What to Do & Know if You Are in an Auto Accident (Includes a Checklist Everyone Should Print Out)

Every year, there are more than 6 million car accidents in the United States, and knowing what to do if you are involved in one of them is essential to your safety -- both physically and financially.

Auto Accidents

If you're involved in an auto accident, pull out of harm's way and call the police immediately.

When the Accident Occurs

The first thing you should do is stop. Each state has their own penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident, but if you don't stop you could be later charged with a "hit and run."

Next, assess the scene with safety in mind. If the accident is minor and no one is seriously injured, pull the car to the side of the road, out of the way of traffic.

If people are hurt, do your best to help them. Call the police and tell them you need an ambulance. If you have first-aid training, administer it, but if not, don't move someone who is injured, as you could make their injuries worse. The exception here is if staying put will harm the person further (such as a car fire) -- then move them away from the danger.

Remain Calm

You should always call the police, no matter how minor the accident. The police will fill out an accident report, which is essential to protecting your rights later -- particularly if you're involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist.

Make sure that you turn your hazard lights on to let traffic know that there has been an accident. You may also want to set out flares or put the hood on your car up to alert others. If you don't attempt to warn other drivers of the accident, you could be liable for damage to their vehicles.

Meanwhile, stay calm. Do not argue with or yell at the other driver, as anything you say could later be held against you. Do not say that the accident was your fault or admit any type of responsibility to witnesses or others involved in the accident. You should wait for the police to come, and only discuss the accident with the police and your insurance agent.

Get the Right Information

Although you will likely be shaken up immediately following an accident, it's essential to make a note of the following information:

  1. Names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone involved in the accident.

  2. A description of the car involved (make, model, year, color)

  3. License plate number of the other car.

  4. Vehicle identification number of the other car.

  5. Insurance company, policy number and driver's license number of the other driver.

  6. The name of the car's owner (if other than the driver).

  7. The exact location of the collision and how it happened.

  8. Damage to all vehicles, and time and date of the accident (you may even want to draw a quick sketch of how the cars ended up on the road).

  9. Names and addresses of witnesses to the accident.

Call Your Insurance Agent

Checklist: What to Do in an Auto Accident

Stop and pull out of the way of traffic (if possible).
Call the police.
Check for injuries and help those you can.
Warn other drivers using your hazard lights.
Collect the necessary information: names, addresses, phone numbers and insurance information of those involved; accident, vehicle and injury descriptions; names and addresses of witnesses.
Do not admit fault, accept liability or argue with other drivers.
Make sure the police fill out an accident report.
Call your insurance agent and report the accident.
See a doctor if you suspect you have injuries.
Make a claim with your (or the other driver's) insurance company.
Contact a lawyer if you are sued or need advice in making a claim/dealing with your insurance company.

After you have spoken with the police and an accident report has been filed, you should call your insurance agent, as soon as possible. The sooner you do this, the sooner your agent can begin processing your claim. Further, if you delay reporting the accident, if could affect your coverage. Some states also require that you report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

After the Accident

You and your passengers may wish to get a check-up with a doctor if you suspect you may be injured. Injuries from vehicle accidents do not always show up immediately. Certain circumstances may also warrant you calling a personal injury lawyer, to discuss your rights and entitlements or your liability in the accident.

When to Call a Lawyer

Most people like to resolve things as quickly and as simply as possible, but there are times when calling a lawyer is beneficial and even necessary. These include:

  • If a claim is made against you that exceeds your insurance coverage.

  • To recover medical expenses or other losses that exceed a certain amount of money (depending on state).

  • To recover compensation for pain and suffering for a serious injury.

  • To recover compensation for a death.

  • To recover compensation from an uninsured driver.

An auto accident can take a mental, physical and emotional toll on everyone involved. To make the roads safer for everyone, drive courteously and alertly, and, if you like, check out these safe driving tips from the State of Illinois' "Rules of the Road."

Recommended Reading

The Safest & Least-Safe Cars of 2006

The Top Six Winter Driving Dangers and How to Handle Them Safely


The State Bar of California: Auto Accident

MSN Money: What to do After a Car Accident What to do if You're in an Auto Accident What to do After a Car Accident

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This