What to Expect After a Car Accident
Being in a collision is a scary life event. Honestly each time we leave our homes we could be in a car accident.
My personal opinion is that with the advent of the smartphone, drivers have become more distracted. And I’m not going to be high and mighty and say I’ve never been on my phone before while driving. But I do limit what I do on my phone so that it’s an asset and not a liability.
The truth is that collisions happen and while we don’t want to think about them at all, we must be ready if one happens involving us.
Assess Danger and Injuries
The first thing we have to do is assess the danger and any injuries. Make sure you are okay and then check on your passengers. You won’t be any good to anyone if you’re hurt and trying to help others.
If you have a bad injury, stay put and call for help. Don’t think someone else will call for you. You have to take the initiative. Then see if you need to exit the vehicle because of the danger of fire or where your car has come to a stop.
Calling for Help
You may need to call 911 if someone else is hurt, your car is blocking traffic, or if your insurance requires a police report. If it’s a fender bender then you may not need to call 911, so use your best judgment. Turn on your hazard lights and turn off your car.
While talking to the operator, make sure you can tell them where you are. The collision might be where there are road signs, or you could be on the interstate seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
I was a passenger in a production vehicle that blew a tire and we ended up in a ditch in the middle of a divided interstate. We didn’t know where we were so I had to pull up Google maps and look for the nearest exit to let help know where to go.
Talking with the Other Drivers
When it comes time to communicate with the other parties involved you need to be very careful.
Regardless of who is at fault and how you may feel, be nice. Do not yell or scream. Keep your emotions in check. Be polite and don’t give someone a reason to escalate their emotions.
The last thing you want is to be in a wreck and then a fight!
I’ve seen people run around and scream after a wreck. I’ve seen people get out and put on a show of how distraught they are. And then I’ve seen folks laugh it off.
One time on my way to work a high school-aged girl rear-ended me. We pulled over to check things out and she began talking at a thousand miles an hour.
Her eyes are looking everywhere but at me. Her hands are gesticulating wildly and she takes responsibility for hitting me while giving me a rundown of the other accidents she was responsible for. It was a lot to take in.
We were both okay and the cars weren’t that bad off so I told her to be more careful next time and we left. No other action was needed. But you’re never going to know how people are going to react after having an adrenaline spike after a collision, so make sure to read the situation and be nice.
Set the Tone
So when you talk with everyone else, keep your cool. Plus, keep your head up and appear confident even if you don’t feel that way. Set a high boundary for how you want to be communicated with, don’t look guilty by staring at your feet and letting everyone else do the talking. Represent yourself well and set the tone for others to emulate.
Should You Stay or Go?
Police and insurance companies will tell you to remain at the scene. I will tell you if you feel like your life is in danger, then you need to leave.
If the other parties involved are angry and threatening you, then go.
Call 911 as you leave to explain what’s going on and to tell them where they can find you. Plus, this additional call will help characterize the situation if things go to court. Just make sure you explain to everyone later that you were in fear for your life and that was the reason you left.
At some point, you’ll need to exchange information with everyone else involved. When you do make sure you take a photo of all of the paperwork. Don’t waste your time writing everything down. Snap a good picture and move on.
For a list of the information you need to obtain, download the checklist: What to do After a Wreck.
Photographing and Witnesses
Speaking of pictures, take shots of everything you can. I’m talking about your car, their car, the location, a few feet back of the location, and VIN and license plate numbers, too. Have all the angles for an investigation for later.
If there was a witness, go and speak with them and get their contact information. Be cordial and thank them for staying around. Not everyone will, so this person is special.
Talking with the Police
When the police arrive, be cooperative and respectful to them. Answer their questions promptly but don’t elaborate. Don’t share any information that they didn’t ask for.
Never admit guilt in these situations.
If you’re found to be at fault, accept that and move on. You can always straighten things out later if you feel you must. If you are still shaken up from the collision, ask the officers for a few moments to gather your thoughts. They may extend you that courtesy.
I’ve never been in a situation like this, but don’t sign any paperwork at the scene of a wreck. An ambulance chaser lawyer or insurance agent might come by and try to take your case as the smoke is still clearing.
The only thing I’d consider signing is something for the police and then make sure the officer fully explains why you have to sign something. Fighting a signed statement in court later will be hard.
After everything is filed away, call for a tow truck if you need one. Having a roadside assistance plan will pay for itself after just one use. If you need to ride in the tow truck you can.
You may need to call a friend to come and get you. If your accident involved your children, make sure the person that gets you at the scene has seats for them. Also, the NHTSA says that you should always replace your car seats after a moderate to severe car collision.
I hope you never have to do any of the things we just talked about, but now you can be ready for what to do. Take a few moments to download and print out the free checklist What to do After a Wreck from The Secure Dad.