What to Do After a Car Accident

Lauren Ward
Lauren Ward
Contributing Writer

Reviews Report

  • In 2018, 28.1% of car crashes resulted in injury.
  • 6.13 auto collision claims per 100 car years were filed in 2019 and 2018, a slight decrease from 2017.
  • It’s crucial to collect accurate contact and insurance information from the other driver to file a claim with an insurance company.

Car accidents can happen to anyone. In fact, there were 6.734 million car crashes in the United States in 2018. About 71% of those crashes were property damage only, meaning no injuries or deaths were reported, and 28% resulted in injury to at least one person. 

Because of this, drivers should always file a claim for insurance after a car accident — regardless of who is at fault — in order to receive compensation or reimbursement for medical bills and property damage. If you don’t know how to file an insurance claim, then call your car insurance provider. An agent will be able to walk you through all of the important steps to make sure you do everything necessary to complete the accident claim. 

What to Do After a Car Accident

After you get into an accident, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure safety and proper insurance claim filing. While calling your insurance provider and getting the other driver’s contact information is important, it’s not as important as everyone’s immediate health and safety. Only once this has been established should drivers concern themselves with anything else. 

1. Check the Safety of Everyone

First, check yourself for injuries. After an accident, adrenaline rushes into the bloodstream, so it’s possible to be injured and not know it right away. Do a quick scan of your body to check for dizziness, nausea, bleeding, or broken bones. If you find that you are seriously injured and that it hurts to move, don’t try to move. If you attempt to get up on your own, you may make your injuries even worse. 

Next check your passengers for any injuries, especially teens and children. If you find any serious wounds, don’t try to move them. Doing so may cause additional harm. Only when it is abundantly clear that the person will suffer more injuries unless they’re moved is it permissible to move them after a car accident. Otherwise, wait for emergency medical services to arrive on the scene.

If possible, get everyone to safety on a sidewalk or off the road. If your car is safe to drive and you believe it is putting other drivers in danger where it is, move it to the side of the road. If you don’t believe it is putting anyone in danger, it’s OK to leave it where it is until help arrives. 

2. Call an Ambulance and/or Police

Immediately call 911 and other emergency services. If you are aware of any injuries, tell the dispatcher on the phone. For example, “I’m feeling some lower back pain after an accident,” tells the dispatcher that your situation could be serious and it may affect how emergency personnel responds to your accident.

Calling 911 is also crucial for insurance reasons. You want documentation after a car accident because it will provide strong evidence that will support any lawsuits or injury claims you make. It’s also legally required in many states. If, for whatever reason, the police are unable to go to your accident, it’s OK to go to the police station and file a report yourself if the accident is minor. Either way, a police report is needed for your insurance company to begin a claim.

3. Speak With the Other Driver

After you have taken care of yourself and your passengers and called 911, speak with the other driver. Do not use this time to discuss what happened or who was at fault. If the other driver was clearly responsible, they may try to convince you that it was your driving that caused the accident.

Your only purpose at this moment is to make sure the other driver does not need any immediate help before emergency personnel arrive. If they are unconscious, check on their passengers. Do not move anyone unless you feel they are in immediate danger of further injury. 

4. Collect Insurance Information

Once it’s been determined that you, the other driver, and all passengers are safe, exchange contact and insurance information. Ask to see the other driver’s license and insurance card. If you are provided the wrong information, the insurance provider will have trouble completing your claim.

You’ll need all of the following information to correctly file a claim:

  • Full legal name
  • Contact information, including address and phone number
  • Make, model and color of the other driver’s car
  • Driver’s license number 
  • License plate number
  • Insurance company and policy number

Next, discuss and take note of where the accident occurred. It’s important that both drivers report the same location to your insurance agencies. 

Continue to avoid discussing who was at fault. It does not matter from the insurance company’s perspective what you two agree on because it is the job of an adjuster to decide who was at fault. They will look at inspections, police reports, and pictures to determine who was the at-fault driver. 

5. File a Claim

If you are not injured, call your insurance provider while you are still at the scene of the accident. This makes it easier for your insurance company because it will be able to tell you exactly what it needs for accident claims. 

Your insurance provider will likely ask you to take pictures of the accident from all angles. Don’t just photograph your car. It’s important to document all cars involved in the accident. 

Your provider will ask you where the accident occurred and what happened. Next, it will ask you for the other driver’s contact information. It’s possible your provider will ask you for a cost estimate of the damage, too, just to gauge the severity of the situation. If you have your insurance provider’s app downloaded on your phone, you may be able to submit all documentation there.

6. Shop for Cheap Car Insurance

Remember that premiums can increase after filing a claim, as it increases your risks of more claims in the future. If you’ve been in more than one accident — regardless of fault — you can expect to see higher premiums on your car insurance.
Collect quotes from the best cheap car insurance companies to compare new car insurance premiums and coverage for your vehicle. You want a company that has great customer service and rates without sacrificing necessary coverage. Typically, larger companies are more adept than local providers because they have more resources at their commands.

About the Authors

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward Contributing Writer

Lauren Ward is a personal finance writer who regularly covers consumer insurance products. Her work has appeared in a variety of online publications, including Bankrate and The Simple Dollar. She graduated from Georgetown University with a BA in Japanese.