Even when you are involved in nothing more serious than a fender-bender or rear-end collision, the accident takes a toll on your nerves.
It may take a few moments for you to collect your thoughts and process what just happened. If you do not appear to have injuries and can think clearly again, here are five steps to take.
1. Move your vehicle
If your vehicle is blocking traffic and still operable, move it to a safe spot at the side of the road. If you cannot move the vehicle, turn on your hazard lights as a warning to others. Look for oncoming cars and when you can, step out of the vehicle.
2. Check others for injuries
Check on anyone else involved in the accident. If there are injuries, call 911 to summon emergency medical personnel. Even if you feel fine, you should see a doctor as soon as possible after the crash.
3. Call the police
Call the police and report the accident. Resist talking about the details of the collision to the other driver or to witnesses. Do not accept responsibility for the crash or accuse the other driver. Let the police determine what happened. The officer who comes to the scene will write a report and you should request a copy.
4. Collect information
While you wait for the police or EMTs to arrive, use your cellphone to take pictures of the crash site, the damage to your vehicle, the license plate of the other vehicle and anything else you believe helps to tell the story of the incident, such as highway markers or street signs. Write down the name of the other driver as well as his or her contact information. And remember that the two of you should exchange insurance information.
5. File a claim
If the other driver is at fault, you should contact his or her insurance company within 24 hours of the accident. To help with the insurance company's investigation, you should provide your photos and notes, as well as the police and medical reports. You may be able to appeal a denial or an inadequate settlement offer.