Every year, millions of people in the US wind up needing emergency care after a vehicular crash, and the costs of car accident deaths, injuries, and property damage add up to billions of dollars. If you're involved in a car accident, it's important to take the right steps afterward; doing so will help you get the best possible outcome, even in a deeply stressful or painful set of circumstances.
Here are eight steps to take after a car accident:
1) Make a quick medical assessment
Are you seriously injured? What about everyone else involved in the crash, from your own passengers to the occupants of other vehicles? Summon medical help if you or anyone else on the road is injured. Even if medical problems aren't immediately apparent, stay alert to symptoms such as headaches, nausea, numbness, confusion, and pain in other parts of the body; then call for help ASAP.
2) Prioritize safety
In addition to checking for medical problems, also make sure that no one is in immediate danger. If possible, move any vehicles from out of the path of oncoming traffic; usually this can be done if the accident was relatively mild and no one was injured seriously. Use signals such as hazard lights and flares to mark that an accident has occurred, and that other vehicles need to take care when driving by. If you get out of your car, be sure not to wander out into the road and into traffic; always be mindful of other vehicles on the road.
3) Assess property damage
A collision can range from a mild fender bender, resulting in some dents, to powerful crashes that destroy large chunks of a vehicle or damage surrounding property off the road. Note the damage done, and try to document it not only in words but also with photos.
It's a good idea to record all the details of a crash as soon as you can, from where it took place, to the weather conditions at the time, to the extent of the injuries and the damage to property.
4) Unless it's a fairly minor accident, contact police
In general, police will respond to accidents involving injuries and more than minor vehicular damage; additional damage to roadside property, such as utility poles, also needs to be reported. So, if your accident involves a greater amount of damage than a scratch or a minor knock to your bumper, you should let the police know about it.
When police do show up, note their name and badge number, and ask them how you can get a copy of the accident report. Don't claim fault for anything.
Even if the collision doesn't warrant police showing up at the scene, you can file an accident report soon after; having an official accident report on the record could help you with insurance claims.
5) Communicate with the other driver(s)
It's important to exchange information with the other parties involved. Don't start discussing what happened or claim fault for the accident (do, however, make note of whether or not the other driver claims the accident is their fault and write down the words they use); don't rush to settle or make a deal with the other driver that might be unfavorable to you.
What you should do is exchange names, phone numbers, addresses, drivers license and license plate numbers, and insurance company and policy numbers. If they're driving a vehicle that isn't theirs, obtain the owners' information. Furthermore, check if they're driving in the employment of someone else; if so, you should get the information about their employers.
If other drivers are behaving violently or erratically (e.g. they're intoxicated), or they've fled the scene, call the police.
6) Talk to witnesses
Try to get the names and telephone numbers of anyone who witnessed the collision. This can help especially if the other driver winds up behaving criminally or dishonestly, such as by fleeing the scene or lying about what happened.
7) Address insurance issues
After the collision, as soon as you can, you should call an insurance agent to file a claim. Also, review your insurance policy (including what kinds of repairs your company covers). You should also anticipate the possibility of different problems, including getting sued or having your premiums increase.
8) Keep organized records
Keep records of everything related to the crash, including the accident report, insurance claims, medical bills, repair receipts, and communications between yourself and anyone else involved. Make a timeline of events too (such as when certain medical symptoms surfaced).
Filing an accident report or insurance claim, or dealing with situations where other drivers may have been responsible for the crash, could make for a confusing and stressful process. If you have any concerns whatsoever about dealing with insurance companies (both your own and the other drivers') or figuring out who was responsible for the crash, don't hesitate to contact reputable Anchorage car accident attorneys. They'll be able to help you sort out the details of the crash and fight for you to get the care and compensation you need in the aftermath of a collision.