At some point in our lives, we will all experience a car accident, either directly or indirectly. And most of us aren't even prepared for the wreck, if and when it happens. After an accident, it's fair to say that those involved probably will have a tough time comprehending what just happened to them. Take a moment to think about some of the things you would need to do in order to prepare for an accident, as well as important steps to take if you're victim to one.
Preparation for a Car Accident
Sure, there's all of the paper work you'll need, like your insurance info, vehicle registration and your driver's license, which you'll exchange with the other parties involved in the accident. But more importantly, it's good to have some sort of emergency kit readily available because your life might depend on it. Your accident emergency kit should include the following:
- First aid kit for injuries
- Warning devices - bright orange cones, flares, reflective road safety triangles or LED emergency beacon flares
- List of local law enforcement contact numbers
- List of personal emergency contact numbers in case you're seriously injured
- A personal medical allergy and conditions card
- Securely strapped down Fire Extinguisher rated for Class B and C fires by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
- Seat belt cutter and window breaker
- Digital Camera to take pictures with in case your Smart phone is dead
Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry. The more precautions you take now, the better prepared you'll be to save yourself and others in an emergency situation.
Ensure Everyone Is OK - Get to Safety
Safety first - Immediately after an accident make sure you and your passengers are not hurt. If anyone seems hurt, don't hesitate to call 911 and seek medical attention. Then check with the others involved in the accident. If anyone at all seems unresponsive or unsure of their condition, seek medical help immediately. Many injuries are internal and require quick medical attention and assessments.
If everyone seems fine then move to safety. Get to the shoulder of the road or a sidewalk. First make sure all parties involved are not hurt, then quickly assess the situation and decide whether the accident was minor enough to move the vehicles off the road. If in doubt, leave the vehicles where they are and put on your hazard lights, then get to a safe location away from oncoming traffic. Don't worry about blocking traffic - your life's at stake here.
Control Your Emotions and Keep Your Cool
This isn't the time or place to start pointing fingers and placing blame. Exchanging personal information is important here and acquiring a witness or witnesses will help at putting closure to the situation. You will need to document the damages to your vehicle, exchange info, file a police report and contact your insurance agent. Oh, and if you don't currently have insurance while you're reading this, please go get it now!
File a Police Report
If everyone is ok, reach out to the local police, even if this is a minor accident. If you're in an unincorporated area you might need to contact the highway patrol. Be prepared to provide the following:
- Your driver's license
- Your vehicle's registration card
- Evidence you're financially responsible for the vehicle
- Your current address (if it's different from what's on your license)
You will fill out an accident report that includes info on the place and time of the accident along with the other drivers info in addition to details of any injuries or property damage. Check out this Accident Guide from the DMV's website. Don't forget to ask for the officer's information too along with a copy of the accident report. If you're unable to attain a copy of the report, get the officer's badge and phone numbers, name, and police report number. It is strongly encouraged that you stay at the scene until the officer arrives. Some jurisdictions consider leaving the scene before reporting it to law enforcement, a misdemeanor offense.
Write Down Other Driver's Information
While waiting for the police to arrive, get the other driver's personal info and insurance. This is a must, even for minor accidents because some you might not feel an injury until the next day. Write down the following from the other driver(s):
- Phone Number
- Make and Model of the vehicle(s) involved
- License Plate Number
- Insurance Name and Policy Number
- And if possible, their email address and a picture of them
Don't Admit Guilt
Even if you're at fault, don't admit that you are at fault. It's ok to state the facts of the accident, but leave your emotions out of admitting who might be to blame here, and leave it to the police and insurance companies to determine the varying degrees of fault.
Take Detailed Notes and Photos
This is the time to write down everything that happened, even snap some photos. Don't rely on memory alone because we are only human, and we are fully capable of forgetting important details during heightened emotions. Documenting what happened will aid in your ability to describe the details of the accident and the moments leading up to it.