Each year US roadways see over 500,000 crashes. You’ll probably be in at least one crash in your lifetime. Knowing what to do ahead of time can save you time, money, and frustration. In a serious crash, knowing what to do can even save your life, preserve your health, and protect your financial security. Here is what you need to do when you’ve been in a car accident, as well as some tips about what NOT to do.
Protect Your Safety
The first and most important thing to do right after a car crash is protect your own safety. If nobody is hurt, this will prevent them from getting hurt, and if someone is hurt, it will keep him or her from being hurt more seriously. You SHOULD NOT try to move anyone with neck or back pain, or who has loss of sensation or inability to move their arms or legs, as these can be signs of a spinal injury and any attempt to move the person could result in permanent paralysis. The only exception is if the injured person is in immediate danger, as, for example, if the car is on fire. In that case, do whatever is necessary to get the injured person away from the hazard.
Move the Car Out of Traffic
Generally, if your car is driveable, the best thing to do is to steer to a side area out of the way of traffic, park, and get out. However, sometimes criminals lightly tap the bumper of a potential victim in order to lure her out of the car. If you’re in a deserted area late at night, motion the other driver to follow you to a well-lit location. If the car isn’t drivable, push it out of the way if you can do so without putting yourself in danger, or (if in a deserted area late at night), remain in the car with the doors locked and call the police from a cell phone.
Call the Police
You should call your local police or highway patrol after any car accident, even a minor one. Having a police report can help you deal with your insurance company. Even if you were at fault, it’s still a good idea to get the police involved. Even if you hit the other car, it’s possible the other driver was turning illegally or did something else wrong, which might reduce your culpability. If the crash is serious or someone is hurt, call 911, Otherwise, you local police dispatch number is your best bet.
Exchange Insurance Information
Exchange insurance information with the other driver. In most areas, local governments require liability insurance, which can help pay for car repairs, medical bills, or any other expenses you may have, especially if you weren’t at fault. If the other driver flees, try to get his or her license plate number.
Get Checked Out
Even if you don’t think anyone was hurt, it’s a good idea to have everyone involved checked out by a doctor. A car accident is a scary, and the adrenaline your body produces during an emergency is a natural painkiller. You should have x-rays done of any area of your body that experienced any form of impact, as well as any other tests your doctor recommends. It’s also a good idea to have a follow-up appointment about a week or two after the accident.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Finally, notify your insurance company. Even if you were at fault, you need to let your insurance know about the accident. That way, they can help you figure out what to do.