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What to do in a Car Accident

AAA offers six tips on how to ensure safety in the aftermath of a car crash.

one car has rear ended another car, picture
Photo credit
Photo: by Robert Crum
Photo caption
If someone runs into you, work quickly to get yourself and others out of harm’s way.

You can't undo what has happened when you're in a car accident. But you can help ensure the safety of all involved while fending off future problems. Here are tips for what to do in the aftermath.

  • Stay calm and take stock Take a deep breath, then check the scene to determine if anyone is injured. If so, call 911.
  • Find a safe place Resist the urge to swap information immediately. Instead, work quickly to get yourself and others out of harm’s way. If your car is drivable after the car accident, move it into an emergency lane or onto the shoulder. Turn on your hazard lights, and—if you can do so safely—set out flares or reflectors.
  • Hold the apologies Even if you think you’re at fault, accepting blame can complicate your claims process.
  • Notify the authorities Always travel with a cell phone, and keep contact information for first responders in your glove box. Police may not come out for a minor collision, but you’ll want to file a report as soon as possible at a local police station. Most states also require drivers in a collision to notify the DMV if there are any injuries or if damages exceed a certain dollar amount; check with local authorities.
  • Gather the facts Use your cell phone to take photos of the scene, and exchange information—full names, driver’s license numbers, insurance carriers, and policy numbers—with the drivers of other vehicles involved. Also record the vehicles’ license plate and ID numbers, and any witnesses’ names and phone numbers. Don’t count on getting those details from the police report; it may not be ready for days.
  • Alert your agent Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. The longer you delay, the more complicated filing a claim becomes. Even if the damage seems minor, don’t let anyone persuade you to settle informally. A driver may offer to cover costs—until he or she sees the bill.

This article was first published in July 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

AAA membership provides emergency roadside assistance, as well as other benefits.