I’ve been in a car accident, what do I do?

Determine Damage or Injuries

Stay calm. Call police and, except for very minor fender benders, request medical treatment at the scene. The aftermath of an accident is no time to refuse medical treatment, even if you think you are fine. Stress and adrenaline can mask the symptoms of serious injury. And many types of injuries, including some head, neck, joint and muscle injuries, can have delayed onset.

Attempt to see if the occupants of the other vehicle need urgent medical care. But do not engage in discussion about the accident. Never admit fault. And do not argue. People react differently to stress in an accident situation. It is best to wait near your vehicle for authorities to arrive.

File a police report

Do not leave the scene of an accident until you talk to authorities. This can be illegal and most insurance companies require an official police accident report.

Call your insurance agent

Most insurance companies have strict rules about reporting accidents. Call your insurance agent right away after you have received medical attention.

Discussing the accident

Cooperate with law enforcement at the scene. But do not talk to the other driver or insurance agents from another company and do not admit fault for the accident.

Never be belligerent or argumentative with authorities. The official accident report will be an important part of your case later.

(Note: if you believe the accident may result in criminal charges against you, ignore this advise and contact a criminal defense attorney.)

You may request that law enforcement properly document the accident scene and speak with witnesses. Attempt to get the name and contact information from witnesses on your own.

Get the facts

In addition to speaking with witnesses at the scene, document anything that could have contributed to the accident, such as road or weather conditions, obstructed views, poor or inoperative street lights or malfunctioning traffic signals or other traffic control devices.

Write down everything you remember about the accident as soon as you are able and keep it for your records. In addition, return to the scene and take photographs. Skid marks and other accident debris will only remain for a limited amount of time. Vegetation growth changes with the season. Road and lighting conditions can change. All this can have an impact on your case months or even years later.

Documentation and Timeline

Keep all correspondence having to do with the accident and create a timeline of events, including when you receive mail or phone calls regarding the accident.