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Steps to Take if You're in a Car Accident

Taking the right steps if you're in an accident can prevent further damage, save you money, and get things moving quickly should you need medical treatment or vehicle repairs.

Step 1: Move to a safe area and get out of your car if you can.

If possible, move your car out of harm's way. If you are unable to move your car, turn your hazard lights on to warn other drivers. Make sure your car has come to a complete stop. Shift your car into park, or set the handbrake if you drive a manual, and turn off the engine. Check to make sure it's safe to get out of your car, then exit your vehicle.

Step 2: Check on others involved.

Ensure that all other parties involved (drivers, passengers, and pedestrians) are not hurt. If anyone is injured, call 911. Even minor symptoms like dizziness or headaches should be checked out by a healthcare professional.

Step 3: Call the police to the scene.

It's important to call the police, even to minor accident scenes. Their accident report can prove invaluable when dealing with insurance companies and other drivers. Cooperate fully, but avoid admitting fault or blaming others while at the scene. Let the police objectively judge events and make determinations on who was at fault, if anyone.

If the police can't make it to the scene, you can file an accident report through your state's DMV.

Step 4: Gather information.

Try to document as much information as possible while at the scene. This information should include:

  • Driver and passenger names and contact information
  • Insurance information of all involved parties
  • Make, model, and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved
  • Contact information for any eyewitnesses
  • Location of the accident
  • Name and badge number of any responding police officers

Step 5: Document the scene.

If you have a mobile device on you, take pictures of the accident scene and vehicles involved. They'll come in handy during the claim process.

Step 6: File your insurance claim.

Contact your insurance company and file the claim. Many insurance carriers offer smartphone apps that feature the ability to upload photos you took at the scene when you file your insurance claim.

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