Car accidents can be terrifying, and figuring out the right steps to take after you’re in one can feel very overwhelming–especially since doing the wrong thing could cost you fines or even a license suspension.

To help you understand exactly what you need to do if you’re ever in an accident, here is a step-by-step guide to walk you through virtually every part of the process from pulling over, contacting police, and gathering information.

Pull Over

When an accident occurs, you need to pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. Do not continue driving down the road so that you avoid being accused of fleeing the scene. If you can, immediately pull over onto the shoulder or into a nearby parking lot or other rest areas so you can assess the damage, check for injuries, and contact the police if necessary. 

Note that you should turn your hazard lights on as soon as you can after the accident to indicate your situation to other drivers.

Check for Injuries

Once you’re parked in a safe place, the most important thing you need to do is check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If you are too seriously injured to do anything, try not to move and ask someone to call 911 for you. If you’re okay, check on your passengers, and others to see if they have injuries that may require assistance. If so, call the police or ask a bystander to do so.

If anyone sustains injuries that require medical attention, seek care as soon as possible. Note that some car accident-related injuries may not show up until hours or days after the incident, so if you have to visit a doctor within a few days following an accident, make sure you tell them about the incident.

Call the Police

Whether you have a minor fender-bender or a more serious accident, you need to call the police. In New Jersey specifically, all drivers are required by law to call the police if the accident they’re involved in results in injury, death, or at least $500 in property damage. Additionally, if you don’t report an accident that meets any of the above qualifications, you may face criminal consequences including fines, license suspensions, and car registration suspensions.

Some states do not have these specific requirements, so it’s important to be aware of the rules for your area.

Gather Information

It’s very important that you gather all of the information you can about the other party or parties involved in your accident. This information will be invaluable to the police and your insurance agents when you report the incident later, so make sure you take detailed notes on your phone or a notepad. Some of the key pieces of information you’ll need to gather include the following:

Personal Information of Drivers and Witnesses

Make sure you have the names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and email addresses of everyone at the scene. This should include the other driver or drivers’ information, any vehicle occupants, and any witnesses you can find.

Vehicle Information

Once you have any relevant personal information, you need to get information on the other vehicles involved. Write down the other driver’s license plate number(s) and get their insurance information if pertinent.

Location Information

You’ll need to know exactly where the incident occurred, so write down any street names, addresses, or key landmarks nearby that are relevant to your location.

Police Report Information

If emergency services are called to the scene, you need to make sure to get the number of the police report, phone numbers, and the responding officer’s name and badge number. You may be able to request copies of the officers’ report to use when filing your insurance claim.

Take Photos of Everything

While detailed notes are helpful when recalling an accident later, having photos of the accident can be even more valuable. Photos can reveal details that you may forget to make note of on the day of the accident, and they’re much more reliable than memory. Make sure you take photos of everything that you can from multiple angles. Take pictures of the area of collision or accident, pictures of all of the damage to your vehicle, the damage to any other vehicles involved, and pertinent road conditions that may have contributed to the accident, and anything else that might be relevant.

Report the Accident to Your Insurer

You don’t have to immediately contact your insurer from the scene of the accident, but make sure that you file a report in a timely manner. The sooner you file a report, the sooner your agent will be able to tell you what information they need to process your claim and give you an idea about what to expect during the claim process.

Once a report is filed, your insurance company will review the information you’ve given, assign an adjuster to inspect your vehicle, determine fault and repair costs, and begin whatever reimbursement processes you are eligible for.

Key Takeaways

Once you know the right steps to take, handling the aftermath of an accident is so much easier. You don’t have to scramble to figure out what to do because you’ve got a handy reference that can guide you through the entire process.

If you worry about car accidents and what to make sure you have sufficient coverage if you’re in one, contact one of our top agents at Schumacher Insurance Agency today!