Five Steps to Remember If You’re in a Car Accident

As if the fast-paced world we live in wasn’t stressful enough already, adding a car accident to your daily routine can really throw you for a loop.  It can happen any time, and usually does at the worst moments, like when you’re taking the kids to school in the morning – and especially if it’s raining and you’re all running a little late.

The main thing to verify if you’re involved in a car accident is that all of your passengers, and yourself the driver, are not seriously hurt.  Once you’ve determined that, it’s time to take off the mommy hat and batten down the hatches like you’re Lieutenant Olivia Benson (AKA Mariska Hargitay) at the beginning of an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, when she usually tells the victim something like: "You’re a fighter. Look at everything you’ve overcome. Don’t give up now."

You need to go through a checklist just like the Lieutenant would, and follow procedures to the letter.  Here are five steps you should take immediately after the crash. Make sure you complete each of these tasks before you leave the accident scene and go on with the rest of your busy day.

  1. Stop Immediately, but Try Not to Block Traffic

If your accident is just a little fender-bender, and your car is still drivable, try to pull off the road on the shoulder so that you can calmly assess the situation.  But if the damage to one, or both, cars is substantial, and especially if someone is hurt, leave the vehicles exactly where they are. The police will want to take measurements and gather other evidence.  The drivers behind you are not going to like it, this will probably make them late for work, but the main thing here is safety and recording exactly how this accident occurred.

  1. Attend to Anyone Who Is Injured and Call the Police

Your first impulse maybe to pull out your smartphone and call the police, followed by a Facebook post so that everyone will know why you’re going to be late.  But the most important thing to do after an accident is to make sure everyone who was inside the cars involved, as well as any pedestrians who might have been caught up in this mishap, are okay.

Once the injured are attended to, it’s time to get as many details as you possibly can.  First exchange names, addresses and insurance policy information with all the others involved in the wreck.  Most importantly, make sure you get reliable contact information with all the other accident participants, in case you forget to get some important piece of information, you can contact that person later.

  1. Seek Professional Counsel

Once you have the basic information down, it’s time to consider how you are going to be represented in the aftermath of this accident.  Even if it’s a little fender-bender, all sorts of dynamics can come into play with car wrecks. It is a good idea to contact a lawyer and at least get some preliminary advice.  

You probably will have 4G access to the Internet right at the scene.  Most of the reliable law firms offer access to professional counsel right online.  So, why not seek help from those who deal with car accidents and personal injury all the time, right there at the scene of the accident, like with the legal professionals at the Barnes Firm, if your accident happens to occur in California.

  1. Log the Make, Model, and License Plate Numbers of All Cars Involved

It’s a good idea to carry a little notebook and pen together in the glove compartment of your car so that you can not only take down the other driver information, but also get the details of all the other vehicles in the crash.  If you don’t have a notebook, take pictures of everything with your smartphone.

  1. Don’t Accept Settlements at the Scene of the Accident

Whatever you do, if one of the other drivers comes up to you and offers some sob story about his insurance problems, do not negotiate.  Just firmly insist upon his contact and insurance information.  And if this guy tries to offer you some sort of cash settlement don’t you dare take it, or even respond to his offer in any way – he may try to use your response later, against you, in court.

You are in no condition to accurately determine how much damage has been done, not only to your car, but also to yourself.  Soft tissue injuries often do not present themselves until well after the kind of rapid force deceleration trauma like you would experience in a car accident.  Just keep to yourself and stick to the facts.

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