Did you know there are over 6 million car accidents every year in the US?
Even if you’re a safe driver, you can’t be responsible for the actions of others. As an example, distracted drivers cause over 1,000 accidents every day.
That’s not to mention adverse weather conditions or people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. With so many different factors at stake, sometimes you might simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Do you know what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault? Whether it’s a minor fender bender or a serious crash, there are specific steps you need to take.
Read on to learn exactly what to do after an accident.
Step 1: Stay Calm & Check for Injuries
Despite the unexpected shock of the accident, it’s essential to remain calm.
Even if it was a minor collision, don’t move too fast. Some injuries won’t be apparent right away.
Check with any passengers in your car to ensure they’re uninjured too. If anyone is hurt, wait for emergency personnel to arrive to help.
If your cars are blocking traffic and you’re able to do so, move them to the side of the road. The last thing you want to cause is another collision!
Step 2: Call the Police
Some states require anyone involved in an accident, no matter how minor, to contact the police.
Even if it’s not required where you live, it’s still a good idea to call 911. The police will make an official report, which will make it easier to file your insurance claim.
A police report will also prove invaluable if you need to build a legal case against the driver who hit you. This law firm has more information about personal injury attorneys.
Step 3: Exchange Information
While waiting for the authorities to arrive, exchange relevant information with the other driver.
This should include:
- Name, phone number, and address
- Auto insurance company and contact information
- Policy number
- Make, model, and plate number of their vehicle
- Driver’s license number
You should do this even if you feel fine or the damage to your car appears minor. The average collision claim is around $3,400, so don’t underestimate how much it might cost to repair your vehicle.
Step 4: Identify Witnesses
Unless your accident occurred on a desolate stretch of road, some likely witnesses saw what happened.
If possible, ask for their contact information and their description of the accident. Witness testimony could become necessary if there’s any doubt about who was at fault.
You should also write down the names and badge numbers of the officers who make the police report. It may seem unnecessary, but you can never record too many details after a car accident.
Step 5: Take Photographs
Everybody these days has a smartphone. Put yours to work by snapping photos or videos of the accident scene.
These might include:
- Your vehicles
- The weather
- The surrounding environment
- License plates
- Skid marks
- Road damage
- Physical injuries
If in doubt, snap a photo anyway. You never know which details will help to build your case.
A word of caution here: These photos are for your insurance company, your doctor, and your lawyer.
NEVER, under any circumstances, post them to social media or circulate them to friends or family. The same goes for contacting the other driver after the accident or discussing the details with anyone except medical or legal professionals.
This could come back to bite you later on if your case goes to court.
Step 6: Notify Your Insurance Company
If the other driver was at fault, it’s technically up to them to report the accident to their insurance company.
Does that mean they’ll do it? Not necessarily. Considering 1 in 8 US drivers don’t even carry auto insurance, they may not have a company to report to.
Regardless of what the other driver does (or doesn’t do), you must file a claim with your own auto insurance company. This is true even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
The claims adjustor will walk you through the process, including what you need to submit and what your next steps will be.
Step 7: Visit Your Doctor
Even if you walked away from the accident feeling fine, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor.
Some soft tissue injuries, like whiplash, may not be evident for several days or even a week after the accident. A few chiropractic or medical massage treatments could make the difference between a speedy recovery and a lingering problem.
A medical exam could also reveal bruises or other minor injuries you weren’t aware of. Again, this could prove useful later on if you’re building a legal case.
Step 8: Speak to an Attorney
Speaking to an attorney after any car accident is always a wise decision. This is especially true if the accident wasn’t your fault.
You should never have to pay for your own car repairs or medical bills if you’ve been injured in an accident.
A personal injury lawyer can advise you of your rights and how to handle the claims process. They can also represent you in court if your case turns into a legal battle.
What to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault: Now You Know
A minor car accident is an inconvenience. A major one can change your life.
Either way, you’re not alone. Whether it’s dealing with car insurance companies or getting compensation for medical bills, help is available.
Your best bet is to contact an attorney in your area who can advise you of your legal rights. An attorney can’t change what happened, but they can make your life more comfortable moving forward.
Now that you know what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault, what’s next?
Check out our other recent legal posts for more expert advice.