What to Do if You Have a Car Accident

If you’re on vacation, say, driving leisurely through the beautiful city of Missoula, Montana, the last thing you might expect is to get into a car accident. Even if it’s a minor car accident, only causing property damage and no one is hurt, it can jar you because you’re far from home and anxious about the financial cost of a car accident. You might also feel disoriented because you don’t know whom to call, don’t know where to get your car repaired, and are unfamiliar with Montana’s driving regulations.

Take Stock of Your Situation

According to New York accident attorneys, Schwarzpafel Lawyers at https://www.fightingforyou.com/practices/vehicle-accidents/car-accidents, “Victims of car accidents can face disabling injuries, doctors’ visits, hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation therapy, lost income, lost pension benefits, physical pain, mental suffering, and the very real prospect of permanent disabilities.” So, the first thing you should do, if you’re not injured, is to take stock of the situation.

Are your passengers okay? Has anyone in the other vehicle been injured? What kind of property damage has been sustained by both vehicles? By understanding the extent of the accident, you are in a better position to take action.

Rather than getting into an argument with the other driver, both parties should focus on contacting the nearest hospital if someone has been injured and getting the cars off the road if the accident happened on a busy road and there’s a chance that other vehicles could hit your cars.  

5 Steps to Take

Fortunately, regardless of what state you have an accident, even if it’s far from home, the Insurance Information Institute has put out a checklist of things you should do.

  1. Call the police. You need to dial 911 even if it’s only a fender bender and no one was injured.  This will not only avoid future legal complications, but your insurance company also expects you to get a police report on the car accident. In a few states, it’s also legally mandatory that a police officer document the scene and write a report. If you can’t call because you don’t have access to a phone or the accident happened in a remote location, then go to a police station to report the car accident as soon as you can.
  2. Stay with your car. Unless you need to go to the hospital, don’t abandon the scene of a car accident. You are legally required to stay close to your vehicle after an accident until help arrives because your car could pose a road hazard. If your car is in the way of moving traffic, try to push it to the side and turn on the hazard lights. Also, use your road flares from your emergency kit to warn other drivers some distance away to slow down. 
  3. Exchange contact information. Talk to the other driver about sharing information. Exchange full names, addresses, contact information, insurance company names and policy numbers, driver’s licenses, and license plate numbers. Also write down the full description of your respective vehicles, writing the name of the automaker, model, and color. Finally, note the time and location of the accident. All of this information will help insurance adjusters determine who is at fault.  
  4. Document the details. Collect as much information about the accident as possible. Get the responding police officer’s name and badge number and a copy of the police report. If you have a smartphone or camera, take pictures of the accident from different angles. If there are witnesses, get their names and contact number, too. All this information will help you file your insurance claim. 
  5. Contact your insurance agent. Speak to your insurance agent while still at the scene of the accident. This will ensure that you get any information about the accident that you may have missed. 

Although taking these five steps may seem overwhelming after an accident, do as many of them as possible. It will help make your insurance claim go smoothly. In fact, print out a copy of the Insurance Information Institute checklist and keep it in your car’s glove compartment. 

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