You can’t anticipate a crash, but you can protect yourself afterward.
Crash! According to some estimates, the odds of you being in a serious car accident in your lifetime are about one in four. You might be hit by a drunk driver, lose control on an icy road, or experience brake failure. Safe practices reduce your chances of a crash, but nothing can guarantee a safe trip. Have you thought about what to do if you are in a car or truck accident? It’s essential to have a plan. We suggest you print the following checklist, go through it with every member of your family, then keep a copy in your glove box with a pad of paper, pencil, insurance card, and registration.
Immediately after the accident
1. Take a breath and calm down. It is typical to be in a state of shock after an accident, but you need to think as clearly as possible.
2. Check to see if anyone in either vehicle needs emergency first aid. Be cautious about moving someone who may have suffered a neck or back injury.
3. Other than asking about injuries, do not discuss the accident with anyone but police. Do not admit fault. Do not argue if someone makes a false or angry statement. Just state facts.
4. Call 911 and describe your location and any injuries.
5. Get names and contact information from witnesses. Write down their accounts of the crash.
6. Get the name and insurance information of the driver of the other vehicle.
7. Find a camera—a cell phone is fine—and take pictures of damage to cars or property, injuries, skid marks, and any features that could have contributed to the crash (A tree branch concealing a sign? An icy patch? A flat tire or broken headlight?)
8. Write down your memories of events leading to the accident.
9. Some serious injuries aren’t obvious immediately. If you are confused, feel dizzy, feel back or head pain, or have any other symptoms, mention it to officers. If you have any doubt about your condition, ask for an ambulance when police, sheriff, or highway patrol officers arrive.
10. Do not sign anything for anyone but police, and not until you completely understand what it is. Ask for a copy of the police report.
11. Begin a file with the information and pictures from the scene of the accident.
12. Report the accident to your auto insurance company, but do not discuss it further at that time. If there is property damage or any injury, consider talking to an accident attorney before making a statement to an insurance adjuster or any other person.
13. Get copies of the police report and any medical reports.
14. Make a list of any property lost or damaged
In the following weeks
15. If you were injured in the car accident, be very careful to follow all recommended treatment.
16. Continue to keep a file with a record of every phone call, medical bill, legal form, or related materials.
It is important that every member of your family know what to do after a car accident. You may not avoid a crash, but you can get the help you need to recover and protect yourself financially and legally.