Uh oh. As soon as you hear the crash, you know something is wrong. You felt the bump, and you feel that anxious, fearful knot in the pit of your stomach: you were just in a car accident.
Being in a car accident is always a scary experience, and it is one that all too many people are familiar with. It is a scene of confusion and chaos, which is why it is best to plan for something like this before it happens, when you are calm and receptive. Right now, while you are at the computer instead of behind the wheel, you should ask yourself “What should I do first after a car accident?”
Here is a list of everything you should do after an accident, including where you should start.
1. Stay Put
Your body and brain’s first instinct after getting into an accident is to run away, whether you are at fault or not. The body is built to run from danger, and you were just in a whole lot of it. It is important, though, to stay put and stay calm, so that you can deal with the situation properly.
2. Check for Injuries
Once you have calmed down your “fight or flight” response, it is time to check to see if you and your passengers are okay. Does anything feel broken? Does anything hurt? Do you see any blood? It is important to check yourself for injury, so that you can know if you are okay to get out of the car.
3. Check for Danger
This step can be done simultaneously with Step 2. If you were just in a fender-bender, there is likely no pressing danger, aside from perhaps where the accident took place (on a busy highway with lots of other traffic, for example). But if you were in a more serious accident, you should check if you see or smell any smoke or gasoline, as this could mean that one of the cars involved could potentially catch fire. If there is no clear danger, stay where you are, and continue with the next steps. If there is danger, get to a safe place if you can, and wait for help.
4. Protect the Scene
If you were in an accident, you and the other driver will both be contacting your insurance companies. So, it is important that you preserve the scene as well as possible, by taking pictures of what happened, and keeping the cars where they are until the police can arrive to make a report. Which leads us to the next step…
5. Call the Police
Again, this can (and should) be done in tandem with the previous step. Do not try to talk to the other drive if you can avoid it (except perhaps to ask if everyone is alright), and call the police as soon as possible so that they can help you sort things out.
6. Make a Report
When the police arrive, they will give you instructions on how to file an accident report. Do not be argumentative, and do not try to take matters into your own hands by trying to force the other driver to pay for the damages. Let the police take control of the scene, and try to stay calm as they sort everything out.
Once the accident scene is cleaned up and the accident is reported, you will have to deal with the insurance company and a potential law suit if necessary. In the moment, though, the first thing you need to remember is to stay calm. It is hard to think clearly in a crisis, but if you keep calm and try not to panic, everything will go much more smoothly, and it will all be over before you know it.