How to Handle a Car Accident: A Step-by-Step Guide

Car accidents are terrifying to witness and horrifying to be a part of. So much happens in just a few short seconds that you may be stunned, confused, and scared once it’s over and unsure of your next steps to take—thankfully, this article is here to help and guide you.

We’ll cover the steps you should follow after an accident, from checking for injuries to when exactly after a highway crash to hire a personal injury lawyer. We’ll even give tips on how to help if you witness a car accident so you can help calm the chaos.

Check for Injuries and Move Vehicles

The first thing you should do is try and move your vehicle to a safe spot not too far from the scene. Leaving could classify the crash as a hit-and-run and could cause you to get into trouble. If you can’t move your vehicle, then simply leave it be and begin the second step: check for injuries. 

Start with yourself since you can’t help anyone else if you’re too hurt to move. Don’t force yourself to do anything that feels like it may injure you further. If you can, try to leave the vehicle at least. If you think you may have a neck or spinal injury, then stay put. 

If you can, check on all other passengers and rivers as well. Don’t move anyone, including young ones in car seats, if you can avoid doing so, as they may have hidden injuries that would worsen if you try to relocate them.

If you witness an accident, then pay attention to your surroundings. It may not be wise to leave your vehicle on a busy highway, but if you feel it’s safe to do so, pull over a safe distance from the accident. 

Once it’s safe for you to leave your car, start offering help to anyone who may be injured and to those helping the injured. If someone asks for an item you have, such as water, offer it to them. You can always get a different snack or drink later, and they’ll appreciate the assistance.

Contact First Responders

If you are not involved in the accident, you may want to call 911 and describe the scene. You aren’t injured and are less panicked than those involved may be, and your clear head will allow you to answer all of the operator’s questions. 

You’ll need to provide your location, details about the crash, how many are involved, injuries, and more. Call even if you aren’t sure it’s necessary, and let the operator decide whether it warrants a police and/or ambulance response or not—it’s always better to call and have not needed to than not call when you should have.

If you were involved in the accident and must contact first responders yourself, then clear your head as much as possible and assess the situation. The operator will ask for your location, the extent of the damage, who was involved, what injuries were sustained, and more.

Be sure to tell them anything relevant, from how many young children are in car seats to whether a vehicle is smoking or not. If someone is injured and you aren’t sure how to help them, ask the operator for advice and follow their instructions. 

They may offer to stay on the line with you until help arrives and will ask you a variety of questions during the wait. Answer them as best as you can; these questions not only provide more information about the incident but can also distract you and help you calm down.

Collect and Provide Information

After you know the police are on their way, it’s time to start collecting information. Some of what you’ll collect will be similar to what you told the operator: location, the extent of the damage, etc. 

You also need to try and get the names of all of the people that were involved, from drivers to passengers. Also, try to obtain contact information such as phone numbers, insurance information, email addresses, and home addresses. 

Taking pictures or videos of the damage sustained by both vehicles is also a good idea. Then, once the police arrive, provide them with all the information they ask for and try to get the police report number as well as the officer’s name and badge number, as this will help strengthen your insurance claim and possible court case.

If you witnessed the accident, stay on the scene, as your testimony may help those involved and will be appreciated by the police. Tell them everything you witnessed, from how the drivers were acting before the crash to how many injured people you saw. The more information you can provide, the better, but don’t lie or make things up. If you don’t have an answer to an officer’s question, then simply say so.

Inform Insurance and Consider Hiring a Lawyer

The last steps to take will vary based on a few factors, and if you were only a witness, simply follow the police’s instructions; eventually, you’ll be able to leave and move on with your day. 

If you were involved in the accident, your next step is to contact your insurance provider once you’ve received medical attention, which may also be a good time to look into hiring a personal injury attorney. They can help you get the amount of money you need from your insurance and get it to you quickly, and they’re especially necessary if you plan to sue the other driver for possible damages.

The chaos of a car accident may throw you off your game but try not to panic or stress yourself out, you need to take a few steps to keep everyone safe and sound. While it may seem complicated at the time, the best way to handle a car accident is to find out what to do beforehand—this way, you’ll know what to do when your aid is needed the most.