For most drivers, a car accident is a situation that doesn’t happen very often. That’s obviously a good thing, but it also means that when an accident does occur, you may be unsure of exactly what to do.
How you handle a car accident can play a major role in your safety and whether you receive the compensation you deserve. Here are the do’s and don’ts that you should know about if you’re ever in a car accident, including the most common mistakes that drivers make.
Do: Make Sure Everyone Is Safe
The first priority in a car accident is the safety of everyone involved and anyone else in the area. Take a deep breath to calm down from that initial adrenaline spike of the accident, and then check that you and any passengers you have are okay.
If your car is in a drivable condition, the next step is to pull it over to the safest nearby location, which will often be on the side of the road. Otherwise, the accident scene will be a hazard that other drivers need to avoid. If your car is too damaged, turn your hazard lights on. It’s also good to use any items you have that could improve the visibility of the accident scene, such as road flares.
Don’t: Leave without Calling the Police
Drivers often choose to swap insurance information and leave, especially if it’s a minor accident. Despite how common this is, the proper procedure after an accident is to call the police and wait for them to arrive.
There are a couple reasons why it’s important to call the police when you have a car accident. The first is that they can put together a police report about what happened. While this may not include a judgement on which driver was at fault, it could still be valuable evidence later for your insurance claim. The second is that the state could require you to report accidents, and when you contact the police immediately, you can get this out of the way.
Do: See a Doctor
Some car accident injuries are obvious, but this isn’t always the case. With certain injuries, especially those to the head, back or neck, the symptoms may not be apparent to you right away.
Injuries can get more severe and even become fatal if they aren’t treated correctly, and this means you should always see a doctor after a car accident, even if you feel fine. Another benefit of seeing a doctor after a car accident is that if you are injured, they can make a record of it immediately. This can help with your insurance claim later, because if you wait around before seeing the doctor, an insurance company may try to claim that the injury isn’t from the accident.
Don’t: Provide a Recorded Statement to the Other Driver’s Insurance
This is one of the biggest mistakes drivers make after an accident. You will almost certainly get a call from the other driver’s insurance adjuster asking you to give them a recorded statement about what happened. You have the legal right to say no, and that is always the better decision.
It’s important to understand here that the other insurance company isn’t on your side. They want evidence that you were at fault or at least partially responsible for the accident, because that can help them avoid paying money for the accident. If you make a recorded statement, they’ll try to use it against you. If you’re lucky, they won’t find anything useful, in which case the statement won’t come into play at all. A recorded statement is a waste of your time at best and can ruin your claim at worst. You may even want to hire a car accident lawyer to help you as you go through the claims process.
Don’t let the stress of a car accident cause you to make poor decisions. Remember the tips above if you ever end up in an accident. You’ll give yourself the best chance of winning an insurance claim, and you’ll make sure that you receive treatment for any injuries you sustained.