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Follow these steps to know what to do after an auto accident

Added November 22, 2019
Two guys standing by their cars who were just in a auto accident

Getting into an auto accident can be overwhelming and stressful. And dealing with insurance on top of it can be complex. That’s why you, your spouse, and your family need to know what to do if a crash happens.

By following this list, you'll help put yourself in a position where you can avoid challenges that may be ahead. By being prepared, you'll help put yourself in a position for the best outcome.

  • Stop your vehicle: If you get into an accident, stop your car and—if possible—leave it where it came to a stop. Don’t leave the scene. If you have to move drivable vehicles to avoid traffic issues, be sure to look closely at where they are and, if possible, take photos of their location on the road, as well as impact damage before moving them to a safe, nearby location.
  • Check for injuries: Make sure everyone’s okay—but remain in your car if possible. If someone requires urgent medical attention, dial 911. Don’t panic. Ensure everyone is aware of any traffic moving around you to avoid additional injury.
  • Contact police: Report the accident and get further instructions. If nobody’s hurt, make sure you’re calling a non-emergency number. 
  • Don’t admit fault: Avoid discussing what happened with other parties involved in the accident. Every detail, opinion, and fact could play a role in determining the outcome of recouping damages or any further legal implications.
  • Exchange driver information: Know what to share, what not to share, and what to ask for:
    • Provide your contact details and the year, make, model, color, description, and license plate number of your vehicle. You don’t need to share your driver’s license information with anyone other than police.
    • Try to identify whether there are passengers in other vehicles and get their names or write down a general description of each.
    • Get names and contact information of any witnesses.
    • Exchange insurance company names and policy numbers. You should keep proof of insurance in your car, wallet, or on your smartphone.
  • Contact your insurance company: Report the accident and get instructions for resolving any claims for damages you may have sustained. Your insurance company will help you understand how to file a claim and navigate the process.

If it's safe to do so, it can be helpful to take photos of:

  • Damage to all vehicles
  • License plate numbers
  • Other damaged property
  • The accident scene, including any debris in the roadway

If there are street signs nearby, write down the street names or take a photo of the street signs and location.

How your insurance provider helps during an accident

Insurance can help you recoup damages you sustained in an accident. It can also help protect you from damages others might seek from you as a result of a crash. That’s an important point—especially when determining who’s at fault.

That’s why you should always contact your insurance provider and let them help you. Depending on the coverage you carry, here are five other ways your insurance provider can help:

  • Towing your vehicle
  • Assessing your vehicle damage
  • Negotiating a reasonable repair cost for your vehicle
  • Managing the disposal of your car if it’s a total loss
  • Providing assistance if another party is seeking recovery of damages from you by resolving those claims, and possibly even paying for an attorney to assist in defending a lawsuit filed against you

That’s valuable assistance and expertise you may need when you least expect it.

Accidents and insurance rates

Of course, an auto accident can lead to concerns about insurance rates. Understand, not every accident will affect your insurance rate. If there is a rate increase, the amount can vary based on the company (provider or carrier) you have your insurance with.

A number of factors can impact insurance rates. The two main factors are the amount of damage resulting from the accident and your level of fault for those damages. Additional factors could also include any driving violations associated with the incident and your prior driving history.

Check out our Learning Center for the answers to other questions you may have about auto insurance, coverages, and other related topics.

Related links:

Wondering about your car insurance bill? Here are some common questions about car insurance rates.

Looking for cheap car insurance? Here are 10 ways to get cheap auto insurance.

 

This document is made available by Sentry Insurance a Mutual Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates (collectively "SIAMCO") with the understanding that SIAMCO is not engaged in the practice of law, nor is it rendering legal advice. The information contained in this document is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Legal obligations may vary by state and locality. No one should act on the information contained in this document without legal advice from competent and licensed local professionals.