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What To Do If You Are Involved In An Automobile Accident



Knowing what to do at the scene of an accident can help relieve the stress usually involved. It can also help your claim get approved.

If you are in an automobile accident:

  • Stop your car in a safe location. If you can't move out of traffic, turn on your hazard lights and put a flare behind the car to warn oncoming traffic.
  • If anyone is injured:
    • If the person is conscious, ask where the injuries are.
    • Get help.
    • Help the injured as much as you can without moving them. Often, the best you can do is keep them warm and make them comfortable.
  • If you are injured, tell the emergency personnel about your health condition, all drugs you're taking, and any treatments you may be going through.
  • Have someone call the police or highway patrol. 
  • Keep in mind that in some states, even if the only injury is to property and there is no personal injury involved, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident before the police arrive.
  • DO NOT:
    • Apologize or say anything that could imply your fault in the accident.
    • Accept any money in compensation. The damages to the car or you may be much more than is evident.
  • Collect Information. Write down:
    • The names and addresses of all drivers and passengers involved.
    • The year, make, model, and license plate numbers of each car involved.
    • The insurance information together with state of issue and number of the driver's license of all drivers involved. If the driver is not the owner, get the information for both the driver, and contact information for the owner.
    • The names and addresses of as many witnesses as possible.
    • The names and badge numbers of police officers or other emergency personnel. If the officer writes a report, ask how you can get a copy -- including phone numbers and best times to call.
    • If you have any suspicion that the other driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, ask that a test be given immediately. If the condition of the other driver isn't apparent, you can ask that you both be given a test.
    • Details of how the accident occurred, including the direction each vehicle was traveling and the weather conditions at the time.
  • When you give the other driver and police your information, do not include the amount of your insurance.
  • Take pictures of the accident scene. It helps to keep an inexpensive disposable camera and a pen and paper in your glove compartment so you can photograph and record the details of an accident. (A mobile phone with a built-in camera will do as well.)
  • Protect the accident scene. 
    • Your insurance policy probably requires you to do whatever possible to protect your car from further damage. 
    • Get the car off the road and call a tow truck if the car is not drivable.
  • Write down what happened as soon as you can -- in as much detail as you can recall.
  • If your vefhicle is towed, DO NOT approve repair work until the insurance company's adjuster has appraised the damage or the insurance company has otherwise authorized the repair in writing.
  • Report the accident to your insurance broker if you have one, or to the insurance company, as soon as possible -- certainly within the time limit required in your policy. If you miss the deadline for informing the insurance company, you may not be covered.

NOTE: As an alternative to keeping this list in your glove compartment, if you have a smart phone, download one of the following free apps which provide WreckCheck. It provides a list of actions to take in the event of a car accident.

  • Nationwide (includes GPS to log the accident location, instructions about how to take photos of the damage and a form for recording and exchanging information
  • Roadside Assistance Lite includes an accident check list
  • WreckCheck provides a list of actions to take in the event of a car accident.

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