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
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
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.
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
Names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone involved
in the accident.
A description of the car involved (make, model, year,
License plate number of the other car.
Vehicle identification number of the other car.
Insurance company, policy number and driver's license
number of the other driver.
The name of the car's owner (if other than the driver).
The exact location of the collision and how it happened.
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).
Names and addresses of witnesses to the accident.
Call Your Insurance Agent
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
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
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
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
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."
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