What Actually Happens When You Get In An Accident - And What to Do

Before I got into a car accident, I thought I had a rough idea of what I’d do if (really though, when) it happened. I knew to swap information, take some pictures, and call insurance right away, and none of that was wrong, but it wasn’t enough.

After the accident, no one was telling me, “You made a huge mistake. You should have ____!” But, if I could go back, besides not making that left turn to let a speeding motorcycle hit me, there’s some things I’d do differently. I’m no expert, but based on my experience I wish someone had told me a mindless list to run through for when someone hit me.

Make sure everyone is okay.

If someone is hurt, you want to act right away. Survey your passengers and self and then move to the other vehicle. Ask everyone if they feel okay and visible look at them for damage they haven’t noticed. Do not, to anyone, say something that can admit fault. Do not say sorry.

If you’re in a dangerous location, do what you can to move to a safer spot.

Call 911 for a dispatcher.

Insurance is going to want the police report (even if the police do nothing while on the scene), so call 911 right away so you’re not waiting around for them to arrive. They’ll need your location, so note your cross streets before you dial.

Once they arrive, get the name and badge number of the officer involved along with the report number.

Gather Eyewitnesses.

Your insurance won’t have any evidence of eyewitnesses unless you supply it (or there’s a big enough accident the police investigate, but they didn’t for mine).  So, for anyone on the scene, ask them for their name and a phone number and ask if they’d be willing to share what they saw.

Photograph everything.

If you can, before moving the scene around, photograph everything. Once in the insurance process, finding proof for different claims about how the accident happened are HARD. So, any evidence could be helpful later on.

Photography the damage to both vehicles.

Photograph the location of the vehicles.

Photograph any obstacles or unusual conditions.

Photograph the location and cross-streets.

Photograph the road markings and signage.

Photograph the up close and wide.

When filing my claim, the hardest part was to provide enough evidence to the way events unfolded. Better photographs of the locations of the vehicles and the condition of the surrounding road could have been helpful.

Move to a better location.

If you didn’t move before, now move to a good location out of the way of the road or at least part of it.

Trade insurance and identification information.

The information your insurance will ask will all be covered by the insurance card and driver’s license of the other driver. Capture all of that. Ensure you’ve gotten not only the details of their insurance but also who their insurance is through (sometimes that’s cut off of a screen grab of their data).

If not listed on their insurance, gather their license plate number too.

Note the accident narrative

Use the voice recorder on your phone and take note of all the details while they are fresh. Be sure to include date and time, address, the road you were on, the cross street, your direction of travel, the direction of the other car, the full story of the crash and how it happened, and the conditions or unusual aspects of that particular time and place.

Call your insurance.

Putting in your claim right away is the way to go. Call insurance and get all the information for the claim into them.

Afterwards, request the police report and traffic video.

After the initial accident, request the police report for yourself so you know what your insurance is collecting. Then, find out if there’s a traffic camera on the lights nearby (if any) as those can be a key source of evidence.

Be consistent.

Afterwards, in every conversation and statement with your insurance, be consistent and detailed based on everything you gathered initially. Never admit fault, at any step, and share all the evidence you have with insurance to help them.

Car accidents are scary, no matter how harmless they are to your body (hopefully). Mine left me unharmed, but in an insurance process for over three months wishing I could go back to the scene and gather more evidence to support what I said over and over. At the end of the day, if no one is hurt, that’s enough good news; but not being slammed by insurance is a good bonus.