It is inevitable that sometime in your lifetime, you or someone you know is going to be in a car accident. The best thing you can do is be prepared with the materials and knowledge you need; that’s why we are here.
There are some things that you should always keep in your car in case of an accident to help you and those around you.
- A first aid kit – usually you can buy premade ones at the pharmacy, big box store, or even amazon. They do make ones that are specifically for vehicles if that is your preference.
- Your documents – whenever you are in an accident, no matter who’s fault or how bad, a police officer is likely to ask for your driver’s license, your registration, and your proof of insurance. It is important to keep these documents in your car at all times. In some states, it is required to have them while driving.
- Optional: Emergency contact card – some people find it very helpful to keep a card in their wallet or somewhere obvious in their car so if they are in an accident and cannot advocate for themselves, this card is there to do the job. Most of these cards include any medical concerns the paramedics need to be aware of, an emergency contact, the name of your health insurance carrier, and the name of your car insurance carrier.
- If you do not want to use a physical card or feel that another option may be more efficient, most cellphones have an emergency Medical ID feature. Learn how to set it up here: iPhone, Android. (Here is another article if you are having trouble setting it up, or the first two don’t work for you. Click here.)
So now you are all prepared; great! Now, what do you do when am accident happens? The most important thing to do is to stay calm and take each of these steps one at a time.
Check yourself and anyone in your vehicle for injuries. If anyone is seriously injured, try not to move them as this can cause any damage to become much worse or even permanent. If you are in a better position than the passengers in the vehicle you collided with, and you are able, check on them as well. What is it pilots always say? You need to secure your oxygen mask first to be able to help secure others.
Turn off your engine, turn on your hazard lights, and call 911. If you cannot do this on your own, ask someone else in your vehicle or a bystander around to do it for you. Even if it is a minor accident, you still should call the police. In some states, it is illegal not to.
If you can, and only if you can, get to safety. If your vehicle is able to be moved, and in the way of traffic, move it off to the side of the road or area you are occupying. If this is not possible, or it is not drastically in the way, stay where you are and wait for the police to arrive.
If you are not seriously injured and can move around on your own safely, find the person you collided with and exchange insurance information. Every driver should have an ID card with their auto insurance information. It is best to take a picture of this so as not to miss any important details. If they do not have a card or paper with the information, collect their name, address, contact phone numbers, emails, year/make/model of their vehicle, and license plate #. Allow the other party to collect the same from you.
Once again if you are able and safe to do so, write down everything you can remember about what happened. It is best to take some pictures of the accident as well. This includes all sides of all involved vehicles. If you can get photos of the accident from a street view, that would be beneficial too. Once the police arrive, you are allowed to ask for their name and badge numbers if you would like that for your records. It is also best to ask if someone can provide you with a copy of the police report; some insurance companies may ask for this.
Once things have settled down, then it is time to call your call your insurance company to begin a claim. Explain what happened in as much detail as possible. They will most likely ask for the “who, what, where, when, how” of the accident, and just give your best answer. They are there to help you, not stress you out more!
Overall, these situations can be stressful and full of worry. It is best to know who your resources are when things like this happen, and how to handle them like a rock-star (even though you may not feel like one ;))