Everyone hopes to avoid being involved in a car accident, but the reality is that they are very common and rarely do individuals go their whole lives without experiencing some kind of collision while driving. It can be a terrifying ordeal since we are operating machines that weigh thousands of pounds at high speeds.

The range of emotions that you experience after an accident can be difficult to navigate and often prevents you from thinking clearly. You may have minor or major injuries that are causing you to fear for your well-being. You are worried about other passengers in your car or if the other driver is okay. If the accident was not your fault, you will likely feel angry and frustrated with the other driver. Thinking about the financial ramifications of the accident could also increase your stress levels, as well as worrying about if your insurance policy is good enough to handle any issues.

So when you get into an accident, it is important that you know what steps to take in the immediate aftermath. Knowing this process will help you stay level-headed as you deal with the emotions of the accident.

Check for injuries, then get to safety

The first priority is your safety. If you or another passenger has been injured, you need to know as quickly as possible so you can call 911 if that is the case. If you are able to do so, depending on the level of damage, get your car off the road and to the side. Obviously, there could be circumstances where the car is too damaged to move or you are incapacitated. But as much as it is within your control, try to get off the road quickly and away from potential traffic. If there are injuries and you are unable to call 911 yourself, ask for others to do so. As soon as possible, turn on your hazard lights to help warn other drivers of the danger. 

Even if there are no injuries, call 911

While there are some conditions where calling the police is unnecessary, (minimum damage and no injuries might mean you do not have to call the police in your state), it is a good idea to do so for safety reasons and to protect yourself. Even if no one is seriously injured, police officers can help walk you through the process and in the event of a disagreement of fault, they will work to clear things up and write a report. Plus, the presence of police vehicles will alert other drivers to be cautious and prevent further accidents from occuring.

Exchange contact and insurance information

This is an extremely important step to deal with potential financial ramifications that result from the accident. The insurance companies of both you and the other driver will become involved in any payouts or determination of fault, so it is important that you exchange this information with the other driver. Get their full name, a phone number, their insurance carrier, and policy number. Additionally, take note of their license plate number and maybe take a picture of it and the vehicles. In some cases, people may want to try to skip this whole step and handle things between the two of you. But you should insist on this exchange to protect yourself and have a chance at receiving a payout to cover damages. Having a good insurance plan of your own is very important in the event of an accident, so research the best policies to be prepared. As a side note, you and the other party may disagree about whose fault the accident is. Do not try to argue it out with them, but let the authorities and insurance companies handle that part of the process. 

Document everything

Take pictures of both vehicles if you can. After you have all of the information from the other driver, take pictures of their insurance card and driver’s license. When the police arrive, find out the names of the officers at the scene. Ask them for a copy of the accident report as well. All of this will help protect you in the aftermath of the accident and give you information to reference when filing your claim to the insurance company.

Call your insurance company

Speaking of your claim, if possible, try to call your insurance carrier while still at the scene. You should do this because they will let you know all of the information that you will need to file your claim, and if you have left the scene of the accident already, it may be too late to collect this critical information. They also might be able to help with getting your vehicle towed to an auto shop or repair center. 

Remember what is most important

Hopefully, everyone involved in the accident is okay. The most important element of any collision is making sure that the participants are not injured and are safe. Dealing with that will always be the first priority. Remember that although there are potential financial difficulties that will come from this event and a lot of inconveniences, at the end of the day, you are okay and alive. Keep these steps in mind and you will better navigate the challenges of a car accident.