What to Do After a Car Accident


Car accidents often cause confusion and decision-making mistakes. These can possibly lead to legal issues. Even if no one is injured the stress and shock of the situation can still diminish mental acuity. While no one expects or wants a car accident to happen, it is still best to have a plan of action prepared in case one does occur. 

There are many factors to consider when dealing with the immediate aftermath of a car accident. Safety is of course the first priority. This includes you and anyone else involved or near the scene of the accident. Contacting your insurance company, the police, medical workers, towing (if applicable), legal representation and family are also important aspects to consider. While you may not need to deal with all of them, it is still a good idea to know how – and when. Read on to learn more information about what to do after a car accident.

Safety First – The Human Element

Like policies on an aircraft where passengers are instructed to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others, you must check yourself for injuries before doing anything else after a car accident. While this seems like an obvious thing to notice, shock obscures cognizance and adrenaline can distract you from noticing pain. Check yourself for bleeding, feelings of nausea, pain, obstruction of breathing, broken bones and limited or complete lack of motion in any limbs.

After you are certain you are uninjured or can at least safely move, check the safety of other passengers. Check them for the same issues as listed above. Granted, this can all happen fairly quickly depending on the severity of the accident. It could involve simply asking questions (if dealing with adults) or could be as stressful as carefully checking infants or children. 

Safety First – Mechanical & Logistical Elements

Once you confirm you are not seriously injured is to deal with the damage to your car. Examine the amount of damage sustained by your vehicle and how it affects your ability to move. Assess whether or not you can exit your vehicle safely. This means determining if the door is jammed. It also means determining the position of your vehicle on the road with regard to oncoming traffic. Do you notice dangerous odors from leaking gas or oil fumes, is your car on fire? Putting safety first means many potential things after a car accident. When capable you must assess all safety aspects as quickly and effectively as possible.

Provided the accident is minor and your car is still drivable, move it out of the road, onto a shoulder and out of the way of any potential traffic. Turn on your hazard lights if they are working. Finally, find a safe place where you can call your insurance company, the police or an ambulance as needed. 

Who to Call First After a Car Accident

When a car accident is serious and injuries are severe, the first call to make is for an ambulance. When injuries are not sustained, are minor or do not require medical attention, the next call you make does not necessarily need to be to the police. For example, if you are in a car accident by yourself, are uninjured but your car is not drivable, the first call you make might be to your insurance company.

If your car is unable to be driven away your insurance company might cover towing. However, if you call the police prior to contacting your insurance company and the police call the towing company, your towing bill stands a chance of not being reimbursed by your insurance company. If you are safe and are able to call the car insurance agent first, then do so. It could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in out of pocket expenses.

When to Call the Police After a Car Accident

The police need to be called after a car accident when property damage is involved, injuries or death occur or when fault needs to be determined. Having a police report filed right away helps ensure accurate descriptions of the incident are accessible and on record. It is also good to have the police on site in the event the accident involves more than one driver. Police presence helps prevent and deescalate potential outbursts or attacks by others involved in the accident.

Things Not to Do After a Car Accident

You must contact the police when your car accident causes property damage or renders your car un-drivable. Leaving the scene of an accident under those conditions before contacting the police is a serious crime, punishable by fines and possible incarceration. Even if you slide off the road onto the shoulder in bad weather and hit a guardrail, you must stay on the scene until the police arrive and clear you to leave. Other things to not do after a car accident include:

  • admit guilt or fault without legal representation present.
  • allow your personal and legal documentation to be photographed.
  • move injured parties except in situations where moving them is necessary to save their lives.

Additional Things to Do After a Car Accident

It is common to exchange insurance information with other drivers involved. Additional things to do after a car accident can include:

  • photographing the scene as proof of damage and potential fault.
  • talking to witnesses and taking account of their statements.
  • take as many notes as possible about the accident, including information on all those involved.
  • take notes on your injuries and keep record of how symptoms and/or issues develop over time after the accident.
  • contact a personal injury or liability lawyer if applicable.