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A man on his cell phone at the scene of a car accident.

What To Do After a Minor Car Accident

April 20, 2016

“CRUNCH!” That awful, dreaded sound you hear when you pull out of a parking spot or change lanes only to find another vehicle is suddenly there.  Hopefully, nobody is injured. But there’s some damage done – to one or both vehicles. An auto accident is never fun and can take its physical and mental toll on you. When the unexpected happens, make sure you keep these do's and don’ts in mind to help you get back on the road.

What to Do After a Traffic Accident

  • Stay calm. It’s easy to fly off the handle, yelling and swearing. This will only escalate the situation. Keep your cool when the worst happens. Don’t confront the other driver or start placing blame on them. Instead, ask about their well-being and ensure no one in their vehicle has been injured or is in immediate need of medical attention.

  • Look for the other driver’s license plate number, make and model. Immediately check the back of the other driver’s car and note their license plate number, just in case they drive off.

  • Alert the police. Even though it’s a minor car crash, a police report can provide valuable information to your insurance company for any claims that are filed. 911 may not be your first call. If there are no injuries, try the direct numbers for your local police and fire departments. It’s a good idea to look up the direct numbers and save them in your phone.

  • Exchange Information. The police will take down information at the scene of the car accident, but it’s vital that you do too. Keep the list below in mind after an accident:

    • Driver and passenger names

    • License plate numbers

    • Driver’s License Number and state in which it was issued

    • Insurance information

    • Makes and models of all vehicles involved

    • Contact information of any eyewitnesses

    • Location of the accident

    • Name/badge number of any responding police officers

Read more about what you should do if you become involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.

  • If possible, move your vehicles off a busy street so it doesn’t cause a traffic jam. Your safety comes first, so don’t worry too much about disturbing the scene of the accident. Police and the insurance companies can gather a lot of information just from the damage to the cars.

  • Turn on your hazard lights. It’s a simple step that might get lost in the confusion after an accident. This will make it easier for other vehicles to avoid the accident and for police and (if needed) an ambulance to find you.

  • Snap photos of all vehicles involved in the traffic accident. This will give you record of the actual damage, in case the other driver tries to claim things were worse at a later date.

  • Take care of yourself. Adrenaline could be masking pain, and soft-tissue injuries might not be apparent immediately after a car accident. Keep a journal of how you’re feeling, and visit a doctor if your situation changes.

  • Locate witnesses. If there were pedestrians who saw the accident or drivers who stopped, make sure you take down their names and contact information in case you need to get in touch.

  • Contact your insurer. You should contact your insurance agent as soon as you can. They will be able to help you file a claim and inform you of any next steps you need to take.

What Not to Do After a Traffic Accident

  • Leave the scene of the accident. Even if it’s not a bad wreck, no one is hurt, or the vehicle damage is minor or even non-existent. You should never leave the scene of the accident. Regardless of whether the wreck appears very minor, you still should check on the other victim(s), exchange insurance information and report it to law enforcement. It’s a crime if you don’t.

  • Assume that your injuries are minor, or that they’ll resolve on their own. You might not feel the full extent of your injuries for days, even weeks after the accident – but don’t wait to seek medical treatment. Even if you feel your injuries are minor, see a doctor ASAP.

  • Lose your cool. Your emotions are likely running high and it might not be your fault, but it’s never a good idea to lose control. The first thing you should ask the other driver is, “Are you okay?” Do not yell at them or make accusations. Take some deep breaths and stay calm.

  • Admit fault. Even if you think the situation is your fault, you may be wrong. The police and your insurance company will decide who is to blame. You may only be partially at fault, or there may be circumstances you’re unaware of.

Remember these do's and don’ts in the event of an any kind of traffic accident. You can never predict when an accident will happen, and it’s important to make sure you’re adequately insured. Connect with a Farm Bureau agent to help protect yourself.