Learn what to do if you get into a car accident

A woman rubbing her temples in front of a car accident.

Car accidents are stressful. They can leave you feeling confused and scattered. That’s why it’s important to stay calm and levelheaded. Getting upset with the other driver will not help, and could cause you to forget an important step after your accident. This guide will help you learn what to do if you get into a car accident - and help the insurance claim process go a lot smoother.

Here are the do's and don'ts when you get into a car accident:

Make sure you’re not injured

While it may be tempting to immediately leap out of your car to assess damages, take a moment to catch your breath and check if you are injured. Moving around when you’re injured could make things much worse. The last thing you want is to get out of your car and and plant your weight on an injured leg.

Move vehicles to a safe area

If it’s safe to do so, move your vehicle to the side of the road and out of traffic. This helps to prevent any additional accidents. If it’s not safe to move your vehicle, turn on the hazard lights and remain inside until emergency services arrive.

Ensure all passengers are safe

Be sure to check on all other parties involved, including drivers, passengers and pedestrians, to make sure no one is hurt. Call 911 immediately if someone is injured. Even minor aches, pains or dizziness should be checked by a health care professional.

Call the police to the scene

Even in minor accidents, a police report can be valuable when filing a car insurance claim. Be sure to cooperate with police, but never admit fault at the scene. Your first reaction may be to get upset over what has happened, but don’t. Let the police objectively judge events and determine if anyone is at fault.

Exchange information with the other driver

Although you may be a little shocked and disoriented, it’s important to write down as much information as you can at the scene of the accident. Talk to the other driver and collect information such as:

- Driver and passenger names

- License plate numbers

- Insurance information

- Makes and models of all vehicles

- Contact information of any eyewitnesses

- Location of the accident

Document the scene

Mobile phones make it easy to document an accident. Be sure to snap photos of license plates, damages and the location of vehicles if it’s safe to do so. But do not step into live traffic to take photos, of course.

Contact your insurance provider to file a claim

As soon as you’re in a safe location, contact your insurance company to report the accident and share the details. That is, assuming you have auto insurance, which is definitely recommended. Driving without insurance will make any accident much, much worse.

Knowing what to do if you get into a car accident can save you a lot of stress and grief. It's a bad enough situation as is. Don't compound your problems by becoming overwhelmed making an irrational mistake.

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