Emergency preparedness: What to do after a car accident

Car accidentHere’s the scenario: You’re driving down the road on your way to class and you are slammed — HARD — with something on the left side of your car. You’ve quickly shaken it off enough to where you can focus on keeping control of your vehicle and getting it safely to the side of the road. Now what? Be proactive and learn what to do after a car accident before it happens to you.

Step 1: Get help

My first reaction when this happened to me was: I’ve got to get out of this car. I safely steered myself to the right shoulder, put my hazard lights on, threw my car in park and waved down two passersby. I wasn’t sure what had happened to me, but I knew I was in pain and I knew I needed help. Thankfully, I wasn’t badly injured, so removing myself from the vehicle didn’t ultimately cause more harm. If you’re ever in this situation, and your car isn’t in danger of catching fire or being hit by another vehicle, stay put in your vehicle until help arrives, as Kerry, blogger at Squawkfox, suggests in her post “14 Things to Do Before and After a Car Accident.”

It also was only 5:00 p.m. on a warm spring day and two nice gentlemen were able to stop to help a very frantic twenty-something female alongside the busy interstate freeway. However, what you’d do in this situation would depend on where you were, what time of day it was and if you were alone or with a passenger. It’s best that you don’t exit your car if you’re alone and it’s dark outside. Common sense would tell you it’s safer for you to stay where you are.

Step 2: Call 911 and seek medical help

Even if you don’t believe you’ve been badly hurt, calling 911 to file a police report will ensure that you have another witness on the scene in case injuries come up after the fact. As TeensHealth suggests in the post “What to Do After a Car Accident,” be prepared to give the emergency dispatcher the following information:

  • Who: Your name and number and the name(s) and number(s) of anyone else involved or who witnessed the accident
  • What: Give as much detail as you can regarding what happened; include any information about whether it’s a fire hazard, medical emergency, traffic hazard, etc.
  • Where: Be sure to look around for any identifiable markings including mile markers, traffic signs, direction of travel, city, etc.

If need be, don’t be afraid to take the ambulance to the hospital to get checked out, especially if you’re in no shape to drive there yourself. However, don’t feel obligated to take an ambulance if another reliable person can come transport you.

Step 3: Contact your car insurance provider

As soon as you’re able to regain control of the situation and have called for help, the next thing you should do is call your insurance provider to begin the claim. As Squawkfox blogs: “Seemingly small fender-bender car accidents can reveal major damage later on — like a bent car frame — so get your insurance company in the know sooner or you might be without coverage when you really need it.”

Step 4: Call an attorney or seek other professional legal advice

Because dealing with the massive amount of insurance — car and medical — paperwork as well as any work related to your car will be stressful enough, making an important call to an attorney will help ease some of that stress by allowing you to take a calming breath.

Step 5: Pat yourself on the back for being proactive

Finally, and maybe most importantly, count your lucky stars that you were able to remain calm under such a stressful event. Being prepared for an accident is a great way to ensure that you will be able to keep your cool under the pressure and not make the accident any worse.

Remember, these steps are only meant as a guide to proactive thinking about what to do after a car accident; they are not meant as a legal guide. You should always contact an attorney for actual legal advice.

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