There’s no doubt about it—getting in an auto accident can be traumatic, whether the collision was your fault or not. You may experience a flood of emotions and face a lot of chaos and confusion immediately following the crash. Still, it’s crucial to stay calm. Here’s a step-by-step approach to help you get through the aftermath of a collision.
Check for Injuries & Assess Your Surroundings
Protecting your health and safety is of the utmost importance after a car crash. That’s why the first thing you should do is thoroughly examine yourself and your passengers for injuries. If anyone has been visibly injured or complains of neck, back, or head pain, keep the injured person still. Then, determine if you need to do anything immediately to keep yourself safe while waiting for first responders to arrive.
Move Your Car, if Possible
Can you still drive your car, at least for a few feet? If so, it’s best to move it to a safe place out of the traffic flow and turn on your hazard lights. However, if severe property damage or injuries are involved, leave your car in place to assist with the accident investigation.
Whatever you do, don’t leave the scene of the accident. You are legally obligated to pull over if you are involved in a crash, no matter how small. Even if no one was hurt and you don’t think there was any damage, you must stop your car any time you collide with something. Otherwise, you could be cited or arrested for hit-and-run.
Check on the Occupants of the Other Vehicle
Watch for traffic before exiting your vehicle. Then, approach any other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians involved in the crash. If someone is injured, call 911 to make sure the paramedics are on their way.
Remember, your goal right now is to get medical help for those who need it, not start an argument with the other driver. Avoid talking too much with other people at the scene or admitting any fault or liability. Even saying you’re sorry or offering to pay for damages can cause you legal issues later. It’s best to leave negotiations and discussions of fault to your car insurance company.
Call the Police
Even with minor accidents, it’s worthwhile to have a police report for insurance and legal purposes. Be aware that the police may not send someone for a minor fender-bender, but if someone is injured or the wrecked cars are a traffic hazard, the authorities will come.
Be prepared to show your driver’s license, car registration, and proof of insurance. When speaking with the police, only discuss the facts, not speculations about what might have happened. Ask if they have seen similar accidents in the same place before, which could prompt the transportation department to address possible safety issues.
Don’t allow the stress of being in a car accident make you forget to collect information from others at the scene. Simply keeping a pen, some paper, and a flashlight in your glove compartment can help you feel more prepared and level-headed.
Here’s the information you should jot down:
- Name, mailing address, email address, and phone number of all other drivers involved
- Insurance company names and policy numbers of the other drivers
- Car make, model, color, license plate number, and VIN of the other cars
- Witnesses’ names and phone numbers
- Police report number and the name and badge number of the responding officer
NOTE: Never share your social security number or the coverage limits on your insurance policy with others involved in the accident.
Document the Scene
Your phone’s camera is a valuable tool for documenting the crash. Take pictures of the following:
- Vehicle damage
- Other property damage
- Skid marks
- Nearby road signs
- License plates and driver’s licenses
- All four sides of every vehicle involved (to avoid being blamed for damage that occurs later)
- General surroundings to show weather conditions
- Visible injuries
Then, take notes of any relevant details that may apply, such as:
- The date and time of the event
- The road you were on and the nearest cross-street
- Which direction you and the other cars involved were traveling
- Any inclement weather, wet or icy pavement, or glare from the sun
- Any broken streetlights in the area or burned-out headlights on the cars involved
- Lack of turn signals from the other cars involved
File an Accident Report
Even if police responded to the scene, you might still need to file a formal accident report. In Illinois, the law states that drivers must file a report if the accident results in death or more than $1,500 in property damage. Look for the form you need online or at your local DMV or police station. Be sure to retain a copy of the report for your records.
File an Insurance Claim
Call your insurance agent or use your provider’s mobile app to initiate the claims process. If needed, check your insurance card or a recent bill for contact information. Be prepared to share your policy number and details about the accident. An insurance adjuster will contact you soon about looking at your vehicle. After assessing the damage, the adjuster will determine how much money you’ll receive to put toward the repair.
See Your Doctor
Severe injuries may require emergency medical treatment, but you should visit a doctor even if you have the slightest indication that you might be injured. Small pains often develop into larger symptoms in the days following a car crash. The sooner you visit a medical professional, the faster you’ll recover.
Plus, acting quickly is important to show your insurance company that the accident was to blame for your injuries. Depending on your policy, part or all of your medical bills should be covered. Keep the documents from your doctor visits—as well as any other records pertaining to the incident—all in one place so you can access them quickly for insurance or legal purposes.
Get Your Car Repaired
Many car insurance companies will recommend taking your car to one of their approved auto body shops. This is fine, but you also have the option to choose any shop you want. To make sure you’re getting the best deal on your auto repair, it’s wise to collect a few estimates before deciding where to have your car repaired.
B&L Automotive Repairs will do everything we can to restore your car to pre-accident condition. We utilize the latest collision repair technology for the best results, including paintless dent repair, computerized paint matching, and accurate electrical diagnostics. We offer free collision repair estimates with no appointment necessary. Simply stop by our auto body shop in Chicago, call us at (773) 463-1622, or contact us online for more information.