Auto Accident Aftermath: Six Essential Steps To Take Right Away
You back out of a parking lot and stop, waiting for the cars ahead of you to move forward. That’s when you notice — from the rear-view mirror — another car backing out and coming at you at an uncomfortable rate of speed. You lay on the horn and hope they hear, but a few seconds later, there’s the scrape of metal and the annoying reality that you’ve just been wrecked! What do you do next?
There are six essential steps you should take in the immediate aftermath of an auto accident. While the situation above is a parking lot fender bender, these steps can also be applied to bigger accidents.
Firstly, Make Sure There Are No Injuries.
In the parking lot example describe above, you’ll probably be okay. But when higher rates of speed are involved, it becomes imperative to check the health and wellness of all individuals involved in the accident. This step also gives you the opportunity to quickly observe the amount of damage that has been done to both vehicles and to collect your thoughts and composure for what is to follow.
Secondly, Restore Order.
As best as you can, try to minimize the chaos of the situation. This can be done by moving your car back in to your parking space or by getting your vehicle out of the path of oncoming traffic if possible. It’s at this point that you’ll also want to call the police so they can help assess the situation.
Thirdly, Exchange Information.
You’ll need to exchange insurance information with the driver and give the police your version of events. In parking lot accidents, police often determine that a report isn’t necessary. However, if there is a clear issue of fault, it may be worthwhile to press the issue. This recently happened to me. A driver backed out of their spot without looking behind them and tore off the bumper of my wife’s new car. Since I was stopped and waiting on the cars ahead of me to advance, I pressed the police officer for a report, and the other party was found to be at-fault.
Fourthly, Compile Evidence.
Getting pictures of the scene and the damage to your vehicle will help insurance companies more quickly process claims. If you’re able to snap a photo right away before moving the cars out of the way, it might even work out in your favor should there be a dispute. If anything, it could stifle another party’s tendency toward self-preservation and lead to a more honest account of their fault in the matter. Furthermore, you should seek any witnesses to the accident and get their information as well.
Fifthly, Make Notes.
Replay the accident in your mind. Make note of how it all went down, making sure to be as honest as possible. Note any possible health issues that you may be experiencing as a result of the accident. Get your story straight before talking to the police, and avoid talking about the accident to the other party. You don’t want something you said in a state of adrenaline and panic to be somehow used against you.
Finally, Contact Your Insurance Company.
While we have this listed as No. 6, it’s important to note that many of these steps take but a few moments. With that said, it’s recommended that you reach out to your insurance company as soon as possible to file the claim (if necessary). It’s also at this point that you can share the details of what happened, get contact information for sending pictures and statements, and answer important questions from your company to ensure the best service possible.
It’s common to feel overwhelmed by an accident, but if you internalize these steps, it becomes easier to approach the situation rationally and avoid costly mistakes in the process.