What To Do After A Car Accident: Checklist

If you have been in a car accident, trying to figure out what to do in the moment can feel nearly impossible. Moments ago you were driving, following the rules, and on your way to your destination, and now you are charged with adrenaline, probably dealing with painful injuries, and trying to think of what to do next.

This is why it is always a good idea to have a plan in place for what to do if you are ever involved in an accident. This way, when the worst does happen, you can focus on getting the help that you need without having to worry about what step to take next.

At 1-800-Injured, we’ve connected countless car accident victims with personal injury attorneys to help them through this stressful time — because the confusion doesn’t end once you leave the scene of the crash. In fact, you can count on things getting more complicated as you try to file a claim with the insurance company and get the money you deserve.

Read this car accident checklist to get a better idea of what steps to follow after a car accident, and contact us as soon as possible to connect with a lawyer for a free consultation and case evaluation.

Steps to Follow After a Car Accident

The following steps in this car accident checklist are meant to give you a “best case scenario” for what to do after a crash, but remember that the absolute most important thing for you to focus on is your own health and safety. No two accidents are alike, and if any of the steps below will put you at risk of complicating an injury, causing more harm, or making a dangerous situation, skip it. Your attorney will be able to help you fill in the blanks retroactively.

Take a Moment and Check In With Yourself

The first few moments after a crash can feel like an eternity as your adrenaline is racing, your pain receptors are firing, and your brain is trying to make sense of what just happened. This can make it hard to know what you should do first, but the most important thing is always going to be your safety.

So take a moment, check in with yourself and your other passengers, and take a few deep breaths. This might sound simple enough, but the panic and adrenaline can cause people to spring straight into action while ignoring, either consciously or unconsciously, the alarm bells going off in their brains and bodies. This can cause people to exacerbate injuries or put themselves in risky situations, both of which will only make matters worse down the road. In fact, insurance companies love to use this as evidence that a victim’s injuries are either not as bad as they claim, or that they made their injuries worse by not getting immediate care.

Turn on your hazard lights to warn oncoming traffic and other vehicles.

Call 911

The second step is to call 911. This might seem like an obvious one, but you would be surprised how many people either forget or choose not to do this — especially if they feel like the damage is minimal and no one appears to be hurt. Even if it seems like a minor accident, you should always err on the side of caution and call for help. Let them know how many motor vehicles were involved, and whether or not there are any serious injuries you are aware of at the scene of the accident.

Adrenaline can mask the pain of injuries, and some injuries, like concussions, might not present symptoms until hours or even days after the accident occurred. Not only will you get medical attention at the accident scene from the EMTs, but a police officer will also be there and they can file an official report, which will be important later on when you are dealing with the insurance company.

It might be in your best interest to call 911 before even getting out of your vehicle, or at least before speaking with the other driver. It can make a bad situation worse if the other driver tries to convince you not to call 911, and to deal with it directly, so get it out of the way beforehand to avoid a potential confrontation.

Gather Evidence

If you are physically able to do so, the next step is to start gathering evidence at the accident scene. This can be important later on when you are filing a claim with the insurance provider or even taking legal action against the other driver.

Take pictures of all of the damage to any vehicles involved, as well as any other important details that you think will come in handy later. And while taking pictures is great, video can convey much more information to your attorney, especially if you speak over the video and call out specific details and events leading up to the crash. Your car accident attorney will be able to return to your photos and videos over and over again. No matter how vivid these details may seem while you are standing at the crash, your memory of the event will begin to fade almost immediately, which can only serve to complicate your claim.

Get Contact Information and Exchange Information

The most important thing is to get the contact information of the other driver. This can be difficult if the other driver is uncooperative, but you should try to get their name, phone number, address, and insurance policy information. If they refuse to give you this information, you can always get it from the police report (since you’ve already called 911). You can also record the year, make, and model of the motor vehicles involved, as well as their license plate numbers.

If there are eyewitnesses at the scene of the accident, encourage them to stay until the police arrive to provide their perspective for the accident report, and if possible, record their statements on your phone so you can have your own evidence to provide to your attorney. If there are any errors in the police report, having your own evidence will be a great way to provide facts and have it revised, as well.

Get an Exam From the EMTs

Even if you don’t feel like you were injured in the car accident, it is always a good idea to get an exam from the EMTs at the scene. They will be able to provide you with a more thorough evaluation than you could give yourself, and they will also document any injuries that they find. This documentation can come in handy later on if you need to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

If the EMTs recommend that you go to the hospital, it is probably in your best interest to do so. Many injuries, like concussions, might not present symptoms until hours or even days after the accident occurred. And as we mentioned before, adrenaline can mask pain, so you might not even realize that you are injured until later on.

Get Your Car Towed

If your car is totaled or needs significant repairs after the car accident, it is probably in your best interest to have it towed from the car accident scene for vehicle repairs. Many insurance companies will work with specific tow companies and auto body shops, so you might want to ask your insurance adjuster for a recommendation. If you have a mechanic or body shop that you know and trust, ask to have your vehicle towed there. Again, you may not ultimately be able to use them if the insurer does not allow it, but starting with someone you know is always a good idea.

If the other driver is at fault, their car insurance company should cover the cost of towing (and repairing or replacing damaged property). If they refuse to pay, you can file a claim with your own insurance company. They will likely subrogate the claim from the other driver’s insurer, meaning that they will ultimately get reimbursed, but in the meantime, they can pay to have your car repaired.

Schedule a Followup With Your Primary Care Physician

If you took an ambulance to the emergency room, you can skip this step since you are already in the system, but if you leave the scene of the car accident on your own, it is in your best interest to schedule a follow-up appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. This will give you the opportunity to get a more thorough evaluation, and it will also provide you with additional documentation of your injuries (which can be important if you decide to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit).

If you are having trouble getting in to see your own doctor, consider going to an urgent care facility or a walk-in clinic. They will be able to provide you with adequate medical care and documentation of your injuries — all of which is helpful for your own physical recovery as well as your upcoming legal case.

Keep in mind that many insurance companies require you to see a doctor within a certain time frame after an accident (usually within 14 days) in order for them to cover the cost of your medical treatment. So if you wait too long, you might have to pay for your own medical bills. Additionally, waiting too long will just be used as more “proof” that your injuries are either not connected to the accident or that you are exaggerating their seriousness.

Hire an Attorney

You thought we were going to tell you to file a claim next, didn’t you? Don’t worry, that’s coming, but the reality is that partnering with an attorney before you initiate your claim is one of the best things you can do to protect your legal rights and give yourself the best chance of recovering the maximum amount of compensation possible.

This is especially true if you have suffered serious injuries or if there is significant damage to your vehicle. Car insurance companies have their own team of lawyers who are looking out for their interests, so you need someone on your side who is looking out for yours.

Of course, you might be wondering how you will be able to afford an attorney if you are struggling to pay your medical bills and repair your car. The good news is that the personal injury lawyers 1-800-Injured connects victims to work on a contingency fee basis, which means they do not get paid unless (and until) they recover compensation for their clients. So there is no risk for you — if they don’t win, you don’t pay.

Contact the Insurance Company to Initiate Your Car Insurance Claim

You should always call your own car insurance company after an accident, even if you were not at fault. This is because most auto insurance policies contain something called personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage. These types of coverage will help pay for your medical bills and lost wages regardless of who was at fault in the accident.

Your attorney will guide you through the claims process, and may even contact the insurance carrier on your behalf. Whether you are ultimately filing a claim with your car insurance policy or the at-fault driver is on the hook for your medical expenses and property damage, your lawyer will help you make sense of how to move forward. Whether you are dealing with the other driver’s insurance company or your own insurance policy, an attorney can help you every step of the way.