The moments after a car accident are tense. You may be in pain, you may be angry, and you may not even be clear on what happened yet. Nonetheless, the actions you take in those first minutes can make a crucial difference—not only for your safety but for your financial future. Your car accident claim, and your chance to recover the money you need, both begin the second after the accident itself.
Below, we’ll give a simple, short list of steps to take after an accident. These steps aren’t just for car accidents; they also apply to truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and any other kind of motor vehicle collision.
Immediate steps you should take include:
- Get yourself to safety. If your car is on fire, if there is smoke, or if you smell gasoline, get out of the car and move away from it. If you are stuck or have a hard time moving, shout for help.
- Watch for traffic. Tragically, we see many cases where a person survives their own car accident only to be hit by a vehicle a moment later. Traffic doesn’t necessarily know there has been an accident, and drivers may be distracted. Stay out of the lane of traffic, especially at night, in bad weather, or on hills and curves.
- See if anyone else needs help. Approach the other vehicle, or anyone who got out of it, and ask if they’re okay. Ask if there is anyone else in the vehicle who needs assistance.
- Call 911. If anyone is clearly injured, immediately call 911. If there is smoke or fire, call 911. If you’re not sure whether the situation is an emergency or not—call 911.
- Call the police. If the situation is definitely not an emergency, instead of 911 you should call the local police (or sheriff, in a rural area). You can google the phone number or simply call Information at 411. When you talk to the dispatcher, say there has been an accident and request that a squad car be sent. If they ask if there are any injuries, say you are not sure. Do not confidently say “no”—it is too early to know that for sure.
- Be the calm one at the scene. If needed, take a moment to breathe, or count to 10, or say a prayer for strength and wisdom. Do whatever you need to do to steady your nerves and get anger or accusations out of your voice. If you are calm you will not only make better decisions, you will appear respectable and others at the scene will listen to you. This is the best way to start off your interaction with law enforcement, witnesses, and ultimately, the insurance claim process.
- Exchange information with the other driver. They should freely share their name, address, and phone number. Ask to see their driver’s license, which they should allow. Share your own information as well. If they are aggressive or belligerent, back off until police arrive. It’s a good idea to snap a photo of their license plate as well, in case they attempt to leave the scene.
- Watch what you say. Don’t say you’re fine, don’t apologize for the accident, and don’t take the blame. If you think you’re not injured, remember that you are shaken and experiencing adrenaline; you may have injuries and not even know it yet. Anything you say at the scene can be used against you, so give the required information and nothing else.
- Take pictures of what happened. Get pictures of both cars, the damage, and the overall scene.
- If the other driver is intoxicated, start taking video. Video can show clear signs of intoxication so that it isn’t your word (or the police’s) against theirs. You should also tell police if you think the driver is intoxicated.
- Talk to bystanders. Ask them what they saw. If someone saw the accident, ask them how it happened and what they remember. You can (and should) ask to exchange contact information with them. If they don’t want to, at least point them out to police, so that officers know there is a witness.
These are all the steps you need to take at the accident scene itself. Afterward, however, you should get a checkup from a doctor and a free consultation from a lawyer. For more detailed information on what to do in the days and weeks after the accident, see our step-by-step guide here .
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.