We understand that getting into a car accident can be frightening and stressful, but the last thing you should do is panic; there is a series of steps you should take to ensure that both you and the other party leave the scene in good graces. How you react can help prevent future injuries, reduce costs, and accelerate the clean-up/repair process.
- Safety always come first; make sure all injuries, no matter how minor, are taken care of. Call 911 for an ambulance if necessary. If it is a minor accident with no injuries, move both cars to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. If your car is stuck and cannot move without the aid of a tow truck, turn on your hazard lights, exit the vehicle, and move to the side of the road. Ideally, you'll have flares or warning lights in your emergency kit in order to warn other cars.
- Stay calm and civil. Know that an accident is just that - an accident. No one (not you, or the other driver) is at fault; don't even say "I'm sorry," because that too can be interpreted as an admission of fault and be used against you during the insurance claim or police report.
- Exchange information with the other party. This includes name, phone number, local address, email, insurance company, policy number, drivers license number, and car license plate number, as well as the year, make, model, and color of each car involved. Never exchange your Social Security number.
- Photograph and document the accident. Use your camera to take pictures of any damage to either car; you want these photographs to demonstrate the entire context of the situation to file a claim, so be sure to take pictures from both close-up and afar. If there are witnesses, get their contact information as well, in case the other driver tries to dispute the situation. Have a written description of the time, location, road conditions, and process of the accident, including a diagram if possible.
- Call your insurance company. Report the accident as soon as possible. This ensures that the company has your side of the story on file before the other driver files a claim, which puts you at an advantage.