Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Car accidents are inherently stressful. After an accident — even a minor one — you’re probably shaken up, you might be injured, and you may be angry at yourself or the other driver (or both). So, what should you do if you’re involved in an accident?
Focus on Your Safety
You first need to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers. If your car is movable, drive onto the road’s shoulder and out of the way of moving traffic. If your car is disabled, you and your passengers should exit your vehicle and move away from the road. If you or any passengers are injured, call 911 for an ambulance. If any of the injuries are serious, use your judgment about the safety of moving anyone — it may make sense to remain in the car and wait for first responders.
Choose Your Words Carefully
What you say to the other driver, the police and your insurance company can be used against you when you file an insurance claim or seek compensation for injuries. Don’t argue with the other driver about who was at fault — let the police and insurance companies sort that out. Try not to apologize to anyone or say that the accident was your fault — just give a neutral, truthful version of facts of the accident to the police and insurance company without admitting that you were careless or negligent.
Don’t tell anyone you’re weren’t injured in the accident — injuries can take time to reveal themselves. Don’t try to negotiate a deal with the other driver that involves not reporting the accident to the police or your insurance companies.
Call the Police
You should call the police about your accident even if it was a minor fender bender. Although Arizona law only requires reporting an accident if it results in injury or death:
- Your insurance company will want an official police report when you file your claim so that it has a record of the vehicles and drivers involved, a list of passengers, and a neutral description of the accident.
- A police report can protect you from fraud — a driver who doesn’t want to call the police may be trying to use the accident to commit insurance fraud.
- The police report may be a more reliable version of the facts than your memory when you file an insurance or legal claim.
Honestly tell the police about the circumstances of the accident as you understand them at the time. If you’re not sure about something, don’t create facts — tell the police that you don’t know. Get a copy of the report (payment of a small fee is sometimes required) and use your cell phone to write down the names and badge numbers of the police officers on the scene.
Exchange the following information with the other driver (cell phones are good for this):
- Driver’s name (and the name on the car’s registration card if different
- Home address, phone number and email address
- Driver’s license number
- Insurance company and policy number
Use your cell phone to take photos of:
- All of the vehicles involved and their damage
- Any vehicle parts and other accident-related debris on the ground
- Skid marks
- The accident scene — street, intersection, parking lot or other location.
- Any injuries
For more helpful hints about documenting an accident scene, see our blog on the topic.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Whether or not you’re at fault, file a claim with YOUR insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. The insurer will tell you how to send all of the accident information you’ve gathered.
If the accident only caused vehicle damage, your dealings with the insurance company can be pretty simple. The adjuster will determine the damage to your car after which you’ll schedule repairs and pay your deductible. The insurance companies will reach a financial settlement between themselves once they determine the extent to which each driver was at fault.
But if you or your passengers were injured in the accident, things quickly get much more complicated since you’ll be dealing with multiple insurance companies and their attorneys and doctors.
Contact a Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, an experienced Phoenix car accident lawyer like Jack Hirsch or Greg Lyon can deal with the insurance companies and their doctors and lawyers so that you don’t have to. If a lawsuit needs to be filed to fully protect your rights, Hirsch & Lyon can handle that too. Call any of our offices to arrange for a free consultation.