What Should I Do After a Vehicle Accident Happens?

An unexpected car accident can leave you feeling a bit scattered.

That's why it's important to brush up on post-accident procedures now, when you're good and levelheaded. This 7-step guide can help make the moments after an accident less stressful — and the claims process a whole lot smoother.

1. Move to a safe area (if you can)
If it's safe to do so and you aren't seriously injured, move your car out of further harm's way, like to the shoulder of the road or a parking lot. If moving your car just isn't possible, flip on your hazards to warn other drivers that your vehicle isn't going anywhere any time soon.

2. Stop your vehicle and get out
Make sure your car is no longer moving, turn off the engine, shift into park, or set the hand brake if you drive a manual. Take a moment to catch your breath. Check to make sure it's safe to get out of your car before opening the door. If you have flares or similar road safety items, consider using them. Do not wander away from your vehicle as to avoid other motorists from striking you. Do not stand in between the affected vehicles as you may become injured if another motorist strikes one of the vehicles.

3. Check on others involved
Check on all the other parties involved, including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, to make sure no one is hurt. Call 911 if anyone may be injured. Even a seemingly minor symptom like dizziness should be checked out by a health care professional.

4. Call the police to the scene
Even in minor accidents, a police accident report can prove invaluable when dealing with your car insurance company and other drivers. Cooperate fully, but avoid admitting fault or blaming others while at the scene. Let the police objectively judge events and determine who, if anyone, is at fault in the crash.

If the police can't make it to the scene (which is more likely if there are no injuries), you can file an accident report through your state's DMV. However, you must still call the police prior to leaving the scene as to ensure the event is documented via the phone call and a report number is created.

5. Gather info
Try to write down as much info as possible in the accident aftermath, including:
• Driver and passenger names
• License plate numbers and vehicle identification number
• Insurance info
• Makes and models of all vehicles involved
• Contact info for any eyewitnesses
• Location of the accident
• The name and badge number of any responding police officers

6. Document the scene
If you have a smartphone with a camera, snap some photos of the accident scene and vehicle damage. They'll come in handy during the claim process. You can also take pictures of driver’ licenses, registrations, and insurance cards to ensure any reports are legible.

7. File your insurance claim

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