What to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault

Content Reviewer, Attorney James P. Maniscalco
Created by our team of legal writers and reviewed by James P. Maniscalco. J.D.

Driving to and from work, taking the kids to soccer practice, and weekend getaways are standard activities for millions of people who own vehicles across the nation. And while accidents happen every day, you may not put a lot of thought into the idea that it could happen to you.

There are about 90 fatalities on the roads each day due to a variety of reasons including drunk driving, driving well above the speed limit, and not wearing seat belts. All drivers should be prepared in terms of what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault.

Below are the steps to take if you find yourself in this situation. If you are at fault in an automobile accident, find out what to do here. You can also learn how to determine who hit who in an accident and prove you’re not at fault.

The first thing to remember is to stay calm. If you are injured, call out for help so that people at the scene are aware that you need medical attention. If you are able to move or have not sustained any obvious injuries, check on your passengers, and other drivers/passengers who are part of the accident. Try to keep everyone calm while you call the police and ambulance but do not physically move anyone unless it is to get them out of harm’s way.

If the accident is bad enough, chances are that witnesses will automatically call the police and ambulance. Even if it is a minor accident without major damages or injuries, consider calling the police yourself in order to get a police report which can be used as leverage when you file your claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company.

Try to gather as much information as possible, depending on the severity of your injuries. If the other driver is clearly at fault in a rear-end accident, for example, then he or she is responsible for reporting the accident to their insurer. The opposite may be true of a more ambiguous accident such as a t-bone collision. Either way, you should still collect all the relevant details to protect yourself in the event of future litigation including:

  • The other driver’s name, address, number, insurance company name, and policy number.
  • Pictures of the accident, including license plate numbers, cross streets, position of the vehicles, damages to all cars involved, and damages to any private property as a result of the accident.
  • Witness names, numbers, and statements.

In an ideal scenario, the other person informs their insurance company, you submit your expenses, and the insurance company releases the payment for damages/medical treatment.

However, things don’t always work out so smoothly which is why protecting your interests is important. For example, defendants may claim comparative negligence to reduce the extent to which they’re at fault. After you leave the scene of the accident, seek help for any physical injuries you experience. Pay a visit to your doctor or the emergency room even if you do not feel any obvious aches and pains as it may take up to a week for symptoms to appear. Keep a record of all your medical bills to provide copies to the at-fault party’s insurer.

Next, contact your own insurance company to let them know what happened. In the event the other person’s insurance company denies responsibility, your own company will likely appreciate your effort of informing them before they launch their own legal challenge against the other company.

If you do not provide a police report with your claim, insurance companies may completely deny it. In this case, your own insurer may cover the damages, sue the other company, or try to reach a settlement that works for everyone.

Consider consulting with an experienced car accident attorney to figure out how to proceed in a way that gives you the best chances for a favorable outcome.

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