A car accident can be a traumatic and scary experience, making it difficult to know what to do after it happens. It’s important to act quickly to ensure that everyone involved is safe and that all legal steps are followed. Knowing how to take action after a car accident can also protect you from frivolous lawsuits and ensure that you receive the appropriate compensation for any injuries or damage to your vehicle.
• Take a moment to calm down. You will likely be angry, scared, shocked, nervous, guilty, or a combination of all of these emotions in the aftermath of an accident. The calmer you are, the better you will be able to deal with the situation. Take a few deep breaths or count to ten to steady yourself.
• Stay at the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident, whether you caused the accident or not, can result in serious criminal penalties.
• Determine any injuries. The most important thing to do immediately after a car accident is to assess any injuries you or the other drivers and passengers have received. Determine your own safety, then check with the other people involved and, if necessary, immediately call for an ambulance. (If someone is unconscious or has neck pain, moving them may cause serious harm. Leave them in place until medical personnel arrives, unless leaving them in place would endanger them (i.e. they are lying in traffic, their car is on fire, etc.)
• Call the police. Even for what looks like a fender-bender, it is still a good idea to call. That way you will have an official record of the accident, which will help protect you in case the other party sues you or disputes your account of the accident. Police can also dispatch assistance in the event of a serious accident. Stay on the phone with the police until they arrive or instruct you to hang up.
• Move your vehicle, if possible. If you can safely drive your vehicle, move it off to the side of the road and out of the path of oncoming traffic. This will keep you at a safe distance from traffic while you exchange information with the other drivers and make it easier for police and ambulance workers to reach the scene of the accident.