Car wrecks are disorienting. Even if you aren’t physically harmed, it may be overwhelming to know what to do after a traumatizing crash. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through it.
1. Pull over
If you haven’t already, stop the car in a safe place where you can get out and assess the damage. If your car isn’t drivable or is overturned, you don’t need to worry about this.
2. Check for injuries
Assess yourself and others in the car for injuries. Call 9-1-1 immediately if anyone appears injured (or if there is significant car damage). Do not move an injured passenger unless you absolutely have to, or you could make their injuries worse.
If you are OK, get out and check the other vehicle for injured parties. Even if no one in your vehicle is injured, you may need to call emergency services for the other vehicle.
3. Safety first
If the cars cannot be moved, warn other drivers of your stopped vehicle with your hazard lights. If you have cones, flares, or other safety markers, use them about 10 feet behind the furthest car back who was involved in the accident. This allows extra stopping time for unaware traffic.
4. Exchange information
Once it is safe to be outside the vehicles, exchange information with the other driver. Here’s what you should get:
- Driver’s name and phone number
- Vehicle make, model, color, year, and VIN
- Vehicle license plate number
- Driver’s insurance company and policy number
Do NOT allow the other driver to take a photo of your driver’s license, as this could allow scammers to steal your identity.
5. Document the accident
Take photos of the damage from several angles, including the other party’s vehicle. Then, write down your account of what happened. Sometimes details can feel fuzzy after-the-fact, and this can help you remember.
Also, if there are witnesses, ask for their names and numbers. Witnesses can corroborate your account if the case gets taken to court.
6. Make an accident report
After the car accident, file a report with local law enforcement. This can be helpful in determining who may be at fault and it helps insurance companies speed up the claim. In the state of Texas, you’re required to submit a report if someone is injured or if the damage is more than $1,000 worth. You could have your driver’s license suspended for not reporting the accident.
7. Let your insurance know
Contact your insurance and tell them what happened. Discuss your benefits and whether they will pay for a tow truck, rental car, or auto repair.
8. Choose a collision center
Your insurance may recommend a repair shop for your car. You don’t have to go with the shop recommended, but it often speeds up the process if you do. Look for a certified repair shop that has good reviews online.
9.Mental Check In
While working on getting all of the physical damage repaired from an accident don’t forget to tune in with yourself and see if there is emotional damage as well. Many might not associate trauma with a past car accident, but trauma can be anything “deeply distressing or disturbing”. You can find some tips on how to overcome these traumatic events mentally on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.
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