The Comprehensive Car Accident Checklist: Everything You Need to Know

Getting into a car accident is daunting and individuals can react in a variety of ways. Whether you go completely silent, start panicking, or get defensive – you still need to be prepared to handle the situation properly at any given time. The actions you take immediately after an accident can reduce injuries or even save lives.


Car Accident Checklist: Everything You Need to Know

This checklist will help guide you through the steps to take if you are involved in a car accident.

  1. Be prepared before you get on the road. Visit the DMV site that is specific to your state and print out an accident report form. Keep it in your glove compartment along with other important documents. The form will assist you in gathering all the necessary information at the scene of the accident.
  2. As unrealistic as it may sound, it is important to be present in the moment and remain calm. When others see that you have a sense of authority in keeping the situation under control, they will be more at ease. Keeping calm will help you think straight and discuss the details of the accident from an objective point of view.
  3. If you notice that your vehicle or other vehicles pose a danger to other drivers, move them off the road. Otherwise turn on hazard lights and set up flares if you have them. Check on individuals from other vehicles as well as bystanders to ensure that no one requires immediate medical attention. If they do, do not move them unless there’s more danger in leaving them. Call 911 to report the injuries immediately.
  4. State laws require you to call the police if there are injuries or if property damage exceeds a certain threshold. Obtaining a police report may be required for filing an insurance claim, so let officers know that you would like a written statement. Make note of the officer’s name, badge number, his or her phone number, and the police report number.
  5. If you choose not to get your insurance company involved and the police are not called, you still need to protect yourself in case the other driver decides to sue for damages in the future. Put any agreement in writing and get a signed copy. While this document may not be legally binding, it will show a mutual understanding of who was at fault and how the damage will be paid for. Get a signed receipt for the exchange of any money. And even if you don’t plan to file a claim, get the other driver’s name and insurance information.
  6. If witnesses are willing to vouch for your account of events, ask for their name and contact information. Having a neutral third-party account is ideal, if possible.
  7. Do not admit fault or apologize. Cooperate with the other driver and police but do so without admitting errors or speculating. Stick with the facts and do not sign any documents unless they are for the police or your insurance company.
  8. Take pictures of the license plates of all cars involved, damage to your vehicle and other vehicles, damage to private property, street signs or other landmarks, and objects at the scene that are relevant including debris, skid marks, fallen objects, etc.
  9. Be wary of agreeing to any immediate compensation for damages to your vehicle. Don’t make any statement that the accident was too insignificant to act on. Trying to assess the extent of damages at the scene may be misleading.
  10. Exchange information. The National Association of Insurance Commissions recommends that you only provide what your state law requires. In most instances, this includes your full name, insurance company, policy number, and a phone number for your insurance company. If the other driver insists on getting your contact information, wait until the police arrive and remain calm.
  11. Report the incident to your insurance company. It is not required to call from the scene, but you should contact them shortly after the accident if there are injuries or you plan to file a claim.