10 Steps to Take After You’ve Been in an Auto Accident

Being in an auto accident—even a minor one—is a scary experience. As soon as it happens you’ll experience fear and confusion, followed by dread and panic. There are so many variables to consider! Are you okay? Are your passengers? Is the other driver?

What kind of damage has your vehicle sustained? Are there any immediate threats to consider? It’s a barrage of questions that’s enough to send anyone into a panic attack.

Despite all of this, it’s important not to panic after you’ve been in an auto accident. Instead, follow these 10 important steps to make sure you’re making the right decisions about how to proceed next.

  1. Make sure everyone is okay. Check yourself, then your passengers, then anyone else involved in the accident, in that order. If anyone is hurt, immediately call for an ambulance and do not move them. Safety should always be your first priority and your paramount concern. If everyone is okay, move on to Step 2.
  2. Establish the scene of the accident. You’ll need to set up flares or cones around the accident scene to make sure other drivers are aware of the situation. If it’s dark, you can also use a flashlight to make yourself apparent and let others know there’s a wreck. If possible, don’t move your vehicle or disturb anything for the sake of police reporting.
  3. Call the police. Call the police as soon as you’re sure everyone is okay and the scene is secured. Even if there are no injuries, you’ll need a police report for insurance purposes. A police officer will do a write-up of the scene (which is why it’s important to establish it) and take down the details of everyone involved.
  4. Give an accurate description. When speaking with the reporting officer and your insurance claims provider, be sure to recount the situation exactly as it happened. Do not speculate—only provide the facts. This could have legal ramifications! Be clear, concise and specific wherever possible.
  5. Take pictures of your vehicle. The police will take pictures for their accident report, but you should also take photos of the damage to your car, so you can provide them to your insurance company. Try to capture the nature of the damage up close, as well as the scene as a whole for clarity and context.
  6. Get the other drivers’ information. While the police will collect this information, it’s also a good idea for you to have it for your own records, as well as for your insurance company. Get the other driver’s name, address and phone number, as well as their license number, license plate number, make, model and year.
  7. File an insurance claim. Do this as soon as possible! Most policies require immediate reporting of an accident as part of their coverage stipulations. Follow your providers’ instructions carefully and answer any questions they may have. Most insurance companies have 24-hour call services, so you can report at any time.
  8. Seek medical attention. Many whiplash symptoms and other minor injuries will begin to manifest 24-48 hours after an accident. As soon as they do, make sure you’re getting proper medical attention from a doctor, chiropractor or other qualified individual. Don’t just pop pills and wait for the pain to subside; soft tissue injuries will linger!
  9. Keep your paperwork. Keep everything affiliated with your accident. This includes a copy of the police report, insurance claim, auto repair paperwork, doctor visits and any bills. This ensures a paper trail in the event of bigger problems in the future, such as a civil suit or billing disputes.

Step 10: Call a personal injury attorney

Car accidents are expensive and can have major ramifications for your health. If you’re facing major bills or long-term health setbacks, calling a personal injury attorney is one of the smartest things you can do—especially if you were found to be “not at fault” in your accident.

A personal injury attorney can advise you on how to proceed deftly after an auto accident when it comes to insurance claims, medical bills and more. They’ll make sure you get the full amounts you’re entitled to when it comes to insurance payouts and medical compensation—especially if the other driver was found to be at fault. And, if you’re due for an injury settlement or day in court, it’s paramount you have the qualified experience of a personal injury lawyer on your side, representing you.

A car accident is a scary experience, but it doesn’t have to be one that dramatically alters the course of your life for the worse. Make sure you’re following these 10 important steps after  an auto accident—especially number 10—so you can quickly put this ordeal behind you and get back to living your life.

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