Unfortunately, for anyone who drives a vehicle, a car accident is a definite possibility. From slippery roads to distracted drivers, there’s seemingly no end to what can go wrong. Hopefully if you do find yourself in an accident, it’s only a minor fender bender and not anything worse than that.
But still, even a minor accident is unexpected and stressful, no matter how insignificant it is. Obviously, you were on your way somewhere, and now this accident has thrown a serious wrench into those plans.
So what should you do if you do find yourself involved in a minor car accident? Perhaps it’s been a long time since that’s happened to you, or maybe you’re a newer driver and haven’t been in an accident yet. It can be natural and easy to panic and think the worst, but we’re going to walk you through the ten steps that you can take to ease that stress and help you get through the trauma of an accident as painlessly as possible.
Step 1 – Remain Calm
A car accident, even a minor one, is extremely stressful. Emotions run the spectrum from fear to anger, and everything in between. It’s important for you to remain as calm as you can during this stressful time. Take a few deep breaths and focus on the steps you need to take next.
Step 2 – Check for Injuries
Immediately after the car accident, check to see if you or anyone else – passenger, other driver, bystander – is injured in any way. If they are, try to assess the injuries and determine if medical help is needed, or if a first aid kit can do the job.
If someone is injured or unsure if they may be injured, call 911 for an ambulance. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so have a medical professional have a look.
Step 3 – Assess On-scene Dangers
Check your surroundings and the vehicles and look for fire or sparks. Can you smell gasoline? Can you smell or see smoke? These are signs of danger with the vehicles, and if you see a sign, you and everyone else should move far away from the vehicles in case there’s a fire or explosion.
Step 4 – Move Away from Traffic
At this point, if there are no bad injuries or signs of fire, and if the vehicles are able to move a short distance, place your car out of the way of any traffic, both for your safety and the safety of other motorists. This way you can talk with the other driver in a less dangerous environment.
Step 5 – Call the Police
If you’re in any kind of accident, whether minor or more serious, you’ll want to have a police report written and filed. This can be done at a later time, but the best practice is to do it immediately so that the events are fresh in everyone’s minds and before stories change later on.
In fact, your state may actually have a law that requires you to file a police report, especially if there was an injury or vehicle damage over a certain dollar amount.
Also, if there was damage to your vehicle, your insurance company will certainly want a police report to accompany the insurance claim.
For many, this is one of the more intimidating aspects of getting in a minor car accident – having to call the police. Even if you’re not at fault, it can be a scary thing. So do you really need to call them?
Calling the police and making out a report is a very wise decision. It can save headaches later on if the other party tries to change their story of what happened. If there’s any doubt whatsoever, it’s best to err on the side of caution and call them.
Remember that when the police arrive, it’s OK to tell them your side of the story, even if that differs from the other driver. Remain calm and interact with the law enforcement officer. Try not to argue with the other driver. The officer will listen to both sides and fill out the report to the best of their ability.
Step 6 – Exchange Contact Information
Now you’ll want to exchange contact information with the other driver. You should do so even if the car accident is very minor and there don’t appear to be any injuries or vehicle damage.
You should exchange names, phone numbers, email addresses and insurance information. You can also use your cell phone to take pictures of the other driver’s license and insurance card. In a highly stressful situation like this, you may find your nerves are a little frayed and that it’s difficult to write legibly so that you can read it later. Taking a picture negates that problem.
Also, if there were any witnesses to the accident who stopped or are nearby, it’s a good idea to get their contact information as well.
Step 7 – Take Pictures
No, we’re not talking a selfie of you and the other driver, but rather pictures of the accident scene, including any damage to your vehicle, as well as injuries and anything else potentially related to the accident like skid marks or the weather and road conditions.
Step 8 – Call Your Insurance Company
You’ll want to call your insurance company and report the car accident as soon as possible. This holds true whether the accident was the other driver’s fault or not. Once you’re in a safe spot, look on the back of your insurance card for the claims phone number and call and report.
Step 9 – Follow Up
Next, call the police department and request a copy of the accident report for your records. Keep an open communication line with your insurance company and follow-up with them on any questions or problems you have.
Step 10 – Contact an Attorney
This last step may not be necessary, but if you have an injury or any other problem related to the car accident, you may want to contact an auto-accident attorney and schedule a consultation to see just what your legal rights are. Many attorneys offer a free consultation, so it won’t cost money to at least talk with someone.
The Three Don’ts of a Minor Car Accident
As we’ve discussed, even a minor fender bender can be a stressful, scary experience for many. And with that comes the possibility of making a hasty decision.
With that being said, remember to never leave the scene of an accident, especially before you’ve exchanged contact information. If the authorities are called by either you or the other driver, do not leave the scene, as in some jurisdictions, doing so may bring with it a charge against you.
Never admit guilt. When exchanging information with the other driver, keep it simple and do not admit fault. If police are called, again, do not admit fault, but simply give your version of events.
Similarly, do not negotiate with the other party either. This is not the time to agree to anything or make any promises. Sometimes people are without insurance or are worried about points on their record, and they will offer you cash on the spot to just let it go. Remain calm and polite, stick to the above steps, and deal with the rest later. With emotions running high from all parties, you don’t want to agree to anything right now.