What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
A checklist of good steps to take right after you get into an auto accident
By: Meagan Baron
September 20, 2019
Adrenaline is pumping and we are a little jittery after a car accident... Will car insurance cover everything?!?
The last thing on our mind is how we should be cool and collected and take the steps needed to move forward and protect ourselves. It is usually the aftermath that gets us saying something like: “I should have done that,” “Well, now I know for next time,” “I was not expecting that at all,” “I should have went with a better auto insurance company,” “Man, I forgot to do that,” “How did I forget to mention that important detail to the police?”
Mosaic Insurance Alliance wants to make sure that you have a reminder to save to your phone or print out and keep in your car if you or someone you know ever were to get into an accident. When it comes to car accidents, we want you safe and don’t want you to learn what to do from the “practice makes perfect” philosophy. Hopefully, you or someone you know is never in an accident, but, if it happens, let’s make it so you walk away with less “I know now” scenarios for yourself, friends, family, and coworkers.
Download this handy clipboard of steps to save to your phone or print out for your car. You can right click and view the image to save it as a PNG file, or you can click here for the PDF that can be downloaded and printed. Do you know a new driver or student driver? Extra copies never hurt!
What Should You Do at the SCENE of a Car Accident?
1. Get all contact information
Get the names and phone numbers for the other driver(s) and/or witnesses at the scene of the accident. If you can, take pictures of the other drivers’ licenses, license plates, and insurance cards.
2. Pictures, pictures, pictures!
- There is no such thing as too many pictures in this situation! Take pictures ASAP—don’t hesitate at all! Your cellphone will work nicely.
- Take as many as you can of:
- Your entire car at all angles and distances
- The entire car(s) of others involved at all angles and distances
- The scene (up close and at a distance)
- The license and insurance card of the other driver(s)
- People involved at the scene—drivers, passengers, witnesses, etc.
- Items that you believe contributed to the accident (things not working correctly on cars, potholes, malfunctioning traffic lights, etc.)
- Reports that you fill out and submit
- Taking any picture right after the accident can help prove when it happened since pictures are time stamped.
- Taking lighting condition pictures right after the accident can help prove what conditions were like when the accident happened. It is important to note that if police come to the scene, they usually take pictures for record and to use in court. Sometimes, police do not come right away, and by the time they document their own pictures, weather and lighting conditions may be severely different than when the accident happened depending on the time of day and the forecast.
- Taking both portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) pictures is a good idea to get the entire feel of the scene and what happened.
- Having your passenger take pictures is great to ensure that you get all kinds of footage and that you will have backup in case something happened to your pictures.
- Right after taking pictures, send them to yourself and have your passenger who took any pictures to do the same. Email them to yourself and/or send them to yourself on Facebook Messenger to ensure that they are somewhere other than your phone.
- Make sure that your phone always has ample storage. The last thing you want is to not be able to take pictures and/or videos because you do not have the memory.
- It is usually best to not have your camera flash on. When it comes to zoomed in pictures of car damages, a flash can help. When it comes to representing lighting or weather conditions, flashes can misrepresent the scene and situation. Use the flash accordingly.
When taking any kind of footage, try to get visuals of the weather conditions such as rain and outside lighting. Take pictures of the road where the accident happened and surrounding areas. Make sure that when you are taking pictures of the weather, lighting, and road, you are doing it ASAP so that it is as accurate as possible.
3. Taking videos is not a bad idea either!
Video can help you show what the outside lighting conditions were like, the street setup in the location of the accident, and the exact conditions of your car and the other car(s) at all angles
4. Call the police if needed and wait for them at the scene.
- You don’t always have to call the police when you get into a car accident.
- Q: When should you call the police? A: It is typically good to call the police if...
- Someone does not have car insurance.
- A car(s) that was involved in the accident does a hit and run.
- A phantom driver or pedestrian is involved. These are the people that cause accidents but are not actually hit in the accident itself.
- Someone is seriously hurt.
- Drugs/alcohol involved (or you think that they are).
If an accident involves a company vehicle driven by you or another driver—i.e. a semi, bus, loading van, tow truck, etc.
5. Look for witnesses and security cameras.
You never know who might have seen something, or if there was video footage from a passerby’s car, nearby store, bus, or streetlight. Ask and gather contact information for those who could help prove what happened. Note: public buses usually have front, side, and rear cameras that might be able to help you
6. Fill out an incident report
Fill out an incident report right after the incident that is clear and detailed with facts about what caused the accident and important details leading up to it. If you were able to find a witness, and/or you had a passenger, see about having them fill out a report too.
- Make sure that your report is factual, clear, and talks about various angles of the accident. (i.e. weather, lighting conditions, your actions (and the actions of other drivers) before/during/after the accident, actions of the police who came to the scene, if any laws were broken, etc.).
- Before leaving, request copies of that report. Take note of the officer’s name involved and know your case number.
What Should You Do Very Soon AFTER a Car Accident?
1. Write down facts right after while they are fresh in your mind.
- What were the outside weather conditions like?
- What actions did you and the other car(s) involved take?
- About how fast were you going? The speed of the other car(s)?
- Were headlights on when they were needed?
- Were turn signals used properly?
- Were yields and merges done correctly?
- Who had the right of way?
What damage was specifically done your vehicle and to the other vehicles(s) involved?
2. Call your independent agent and insurance company ASAP.
Also, having information mentioned above can help when talking to them.
3. If you get your car looked at by a mechanic, take note of the estimated damages for your records.
Keep any receipts for parts that you had to buy to fix damages. These costs might need to be presented to the insurance company or in court.
4. If you go to the doctor for injuries related to the car accident, take note of the physical damages, medical bill(s), medicine/prescription bills, and other indirect losses relating to your injury.
Take note of days you had to miss from work, accommodation expenses, professional help costs (i.e. nurse aid), etc. This documentation can help you in court, especially if it is 1-3 years later and you end up having long-term injuries.
5. If any drivers involved in the accident work for a rideshare, notify the rideshare company of the accident and which worker(s) were involved.
Other Things That Are Good to Know:
1. Sometimes police may refuse to come to the scene of a car accident if it is in a parking lot or damages are not of a certain amount/severity. Calling them to see doesn’t hurt.
2. There are times when the police must be called and show up at a scene before anyone can leave. For example, no matter the accident or amount of damage, someone who works for the city as a driver and was driving their company vehicle at the time of the accident must have police at the scene to make documentation of the accident. This includes vehicles like city buses. Workers who are driving those vehicles should know their protocol that they must take if they were to get into an accident.
3. Cities can vary on driving law definitions, ticket definitions, and ticket qualifications. Cities have some leeway on what they legally consider is a violation of a certain law, and that can determine whether you get ticketed and the chances of you getting it dropped. Be educated on common tickets in cities that you frequent often, and if you are to get a ticket and want to go to court, read up on that ticket for the city in which the accident happened.
4. If an accident results in you getting a traffic ticket/violation, and your insurance company deems you not at fault for the accident, having that statement can help you in court if you decide to contest, defer, or reduce the ticket. Also, having the above information—videos, pictures, details on what happened, incident reports, witnesses, etc.—could help you.
5. Keep all photos, videos, reports, court documents, insurance statements, etc. for at least 3 years. Keeping them forever is not a bad idea. You want to make sure that you keep them for at least 3 years so that you have evidence to file a claim or protect yourself against a claim if you or anyone involved has a future injury from the accident. As of now, people can report an injury from a car accident within 3 years in the state of Washington.
6. If you go to court, make sure you have all your pictures printed out in color and any pictures and videos backed up on a thumb drive that you can present to the court if needed. Labeling printed out pictures with their time stamp (found in picture properties) can be very helpful. Note: Make sure that you are getting the date and time of when the picture was captured and not of the date and time of when the file was saved to your computer.
7. Make sure that you understand your auto insurance policy from the beginning!
Know everything about your car insurance before an accident has the chance to happen. You don’t want to have to learn the hard way that you did not have the coverage that you thought you had, or that you did not understand the details around something that is covered. Some common misunderstandings that people have about their car insurance policy include:
- Thinking that they have coverage that was not included in their policy, such as uninsured or underinsured motorists.
- Forgetting that they removed a valuable coverage from their policy to try to save on premium.
- Not understanding the coverage that they received had low coverage limits than recommended, making it so that most damages will not be covered and will have to be paid out of pocket.
- Not understanding how a deductible works. Such as: thinking a deductible would be a lot lower than it turned out to be, or not knowing that a deductible existed in a certain circumstance (like a situation with a phantom driver).
- Letting people regularly drive their car who are not on the insurance policy. It is a common thought that since the insurance stays with the vehicle that anyone can drive it even if it is on a regular basis. In the state of Washington, someone is a regular driver of a vehicle, they must be on your car insurance policy as an insured.
You have questions? We have answers! Give us a call at 425-247-0208, and we will see about getting you the information and/or coverage that you need. Stay safe out there in the big world!
(P.S. If you would like more information on a specific insurance related topic, you can contact our Marketing Manager, Meagan, at Meagan@mosaicia.com with topics that you would like to see that will help you get a better understanding of the insurance world and/or to stay safe and prepared with what life throws at you. What would give you more stability and make you feel safer and more informed about a certain insurance type or accident circumstance? What do you think that others should know that you wished you knew sooner about your car, home, business, etc.? Meagan is just an email away!)