You’re driving on the highway or turning at an intersection when you feel an incredible impact. Another car has hit you and you’re more than a little jostled. Whether or not you are badly injured, a car accident usually leaves someone emotionally and mentally shaken. It can be hard to think of what to do next. It can be hard to think of anything other than coming to a stop or getting home to let the unpleasantness wear off. But right after a car accident is exactly when you need to know what to do to best prepare for your car accident claims. To best take care of yourself and others, there is a process you can follow and we will help you step-by-step through what that looks like.
When to Move the Car to Safety
While your first instinct may be to proceed to the shoulder, it is wise not to move your vehicle from the impact site until police and first responders arrive on the scene. This will not only work to memorialize the scene of the incident for documentation, but avoid hazardous conditions, such as aggravating injury or extent of vehicular damage as well.
Begin by assessing whether you are in a safe, low traffic density location. If this is not the case, turn on your hazard lights and raise your car’s hood- signaling to other drivers you’re in distress. This allows other drivers to see from a distance that your car may be an obstacle. If you feel you are in greater harm staying stationary, and determine moving your vehicle is a necessity, try to get onto the nearby shoulder, as far removed from the flow of traffic as possible. The goal is to keep you safe from passing cars and prevent further injury and damages at the scene of the incident.
Fully Stop the Car and Turn it Off
Take a moment to ensure the car reaches a full stop and pull the break. Take the keys out of the ignition. This is an important sequence of steps that are surprisingly easy to forget when you’re rattled after a car accident. The last thing you want is to leave your vehicle in an unsafe manner for yourself and others.
Check Yourself for Injuries
Now that your vehicle is as safe as it can be, check yourself for injuries. Check to see if you can detect external or internal injuries. Determine if your head or neck hurts. Do your shoulders or back hurt? Are you bleeding in any way or have a sprain that needs medical attention? If there are others inside your vehicle, check them for injuries as well or talk them through a self-check.
Carefully Exit the Vehicle
If you are able, and it is safe to do so, get out of the vehicle. Take your time and carefully look around to make sure there are no oncoming cars that might put you at risk. Then step out of the car.
Check on Any Others for Injuries
If there is another stopped vehicle, walk over and ask if everyone is OK, and if you can offer any assistance. Call 911 immediately for any medical assistance required. If an individual is injured, it is better not to move them to avoid increasing injury severity or stability. You should only attempt moving a person if it is clearly safer than leaving them in their original accident location. While drivers are discouraged from discussing the accident, rendering first aid is the most important thing. Be compassionate, but avoid saying anything like “I’m sorry”. For insurance reasons.
Call the Police
When you have checked on everyone, or if you are unable to leave the car to check, the next step is to call the police. There will need to be a report and the police can bring ambulances and arrange for road cleanup as well.
Gather Information and Photos
If you have extra energy, start gathering information. You will want the name, contact info, and insurance details of the other driver. Get the license plates of all involved, along with the make and models of all vehicles. Take note of the location details, like an intersection or mile-marker. If there are any stopped witnesses, ask for their names and contact info. When the police respond, ask for the names and badge numbers of the officers on the scene. Write all of this down.
It is also very smart to snap a collection of photos with your phone of the damaged vehicles, the location of the crash, your immediate post-accident injuries, and any other relevant details. This will help with insurance and establishing liability.
Get Home Safely
Once the police and cleanup procedures have finished with the scene of your accident, your next and final goal is to get home safely. If on scene paramedics have not already taken care of this, take a trip to your nearest emergency room or doctor for a post-accident physical assessment. Adrenaline is capable of masking physical pain, and you don’t want to be surprised over the next few days if soreness and stiffness sets in.
After you are cleared by a medical professional, establish a safe ride home. If medically advised, take anti-inflammatory or any provided prescriptions to mitigate discomfort, and utilize cold compresses on affected areas. A professional medical evaluation is vital information that can be added to car accident claims and legal processes. Remember, you only have 14 days from the date of the incident to seek medical attention under your PIP benefits.
Prepare to File an Insurance Claim
Finally, prepare to file an insurance claim. Whether their insurance will pay or yours, you want to start the process of filing, utilizing the information you collected. If you need coverage for car repairs or to pay for personal injury expenses, your insurance claim is the place to start.
Join us next time for the second half of our car accident claims guide. We’ll talk about how to tackle the legal and financial aftermath of a car accident now that you have collected information and made it home safely. Please contact us today if you need expert guidance through your car accident claims process.