June 20, 2016

What To Do When You've Been In An Accident

A step-by-step guide for handling one of the most stressful driving events.

No one plans to get into a car accident. But it happens. And it can be nerve-wracking, or downright scary. Even if nobody was hurt in the accident, your first car crash is bound to be frightening. So, what do you do when you crash the car? We’ve prepared a step-by-step guide - a car accident road map, if you will - to help get you through.

Safety First

The first and most vital step in the aftermath of a car accident is to assess the safety of everyone involved. Determine if you are alright, and check to see that everyone in your car is okay. Then, if you are able and it is safe to do so, assist others who may have been involved in the accident. Regardless of who is at fault for the accident, or the damage to property, the safety of everyone involved is the most important concern.

Place a call to 911 to report the accident - and do it as soon as possible if someone requires medical attention. If the crash was severe, it is vital that anyone badly hurt receives medical attention immediately - and it’s a good idea for everyone involved to at least be looked over by an EMT or doctor. Even if no one was hurt in the incident, it’s smart to have the police fill out an official report on the accident. An objective account of the accident can be especially helpful when it comes to dealing with the insurance companies. Police will also be helpful in managing the scene and directing traffic away from the site of the crash.

Reduce Danger Risk

Assuming everyone is okay and it is safe to do so, attempt to move the vehicles out of the way of traffic. Pull off the road or onto the shoulder of a highway, and turn on your hazard lights. Especially in the dark or on winding roads, other motorists may have trouble noticing stopped vehicles, so it’s important to put yourself as far out of the way of further harm as possible.

A car accident. Image by Shuets Udono.

Take A Breath

Accidents are stressful - for everyone involved. As soon as you can, take a moment to calm yourself. It won’t help you - or anyone else - to be overly stressed, rude, or angry about the situation. Remaining calm and respectful will help set the tone of the interactions you have with everyone involved. It will also help to set a good example for any children involved in the accident and minimize the stress they feel.

When speaking to the other driver, any bystanders or good samaritans who stop to help, or to emergency response personnel, be kind and remember that they are in this stressful situation with you. It’s not necessarily a great idea to apologize or admit fault, as it may be used against you by insurance providers. If you believe the accident was the other driver’s fault, being angry with them will not make the incident go away. You can vent to friends or family later.

Exchange Information

If there was another car and driver involved in the accident, both parties ought to provide insurance information to one another. Be sure to keep at least proof of insurance with you anytime you’re driving, but having full contact info for your insurance provider on-hand will make things easier. You’ll want to give and receive from the other person the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone 
  • Number
  • Email Address
  • Insurance Provider
  • Policy Number
  • Make, Model, Year and License Plate Number 
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Document the Incident

Write down an account of what happened while it’s still fresh in your memory, and take photos that show the damage to the vehicles. (If possible, it may be helpful to also take a photo before the cars are moved for better documentation of the crash.) Be sure to include as many details as you can, and file the report with your insurance company. Though other drivers may claim they will take care of damage to your car - or that they won’t hold you responsible for damage to theirs - at the scene, this may change later on, and without documentation, you may be at the mercy of the claims of a stranger and their insurance company.


If Needed, Call for Help

Sometimes drivers, passengers, and cars can all leave the scene of an accident, but that isn’t always the case. Immediate assistance for those hurt or active emergencies such as car fires can be easily obtained by placing a call to 911. If your car won’t drive away from the site of the crash, you may also want to call to a friend or family member to pick you up or to assist you with the complexities of navigating the situation.

Finding roadside assistance for cars damaged can be a little more tricky. Unless the police call a tow truck for you, you probably don’t know the closest tow company or roadside assistance provider off the top of your head. With technology like the Urgent.ly app, a few taps on your smartphone allows the app to quickly locate and dispatch the nearest service provider from a network of over 50,000 trucks nationwide. You’ll know that your service provider is vetted and reliable, and you can watch as they arrive in real time on the app. The transparency of the service in the app helps put a little more control in your hands at a time when everything feels out of control.

The Unthinkable

In a worst-case scenario, you might not be able to leave the vehicle, to check everyone’s safety, or to call for help. There’s no way to be ready for that moment, but there are ways to prepare. Make sure that anyone who rides in the car with you always wears a seatbelt, and that children ride in the proper car seats, in order to minimize injury from a crash. Be sure your children know when and how to call 911 in case they are ever faced with the need to do so. It’s also helpful for kids to know the name or phone number of a family member or close friend for emergency response personnel to contact.

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Prevention and Preparedness

Keep your car up-to-date on maintenance to reduce the chance of a breakdown or malfunctioning leading to an accident. Stay alert behind the wheel and refrain from engaging in dangerous behavior such as driving under the influence or driving distracted. For added protection, use Urgent.ly’s Accident Detection feature when you drive. Using Zendrive technology, the app, when enabled, can detect when you’ve been in an accident over 30mph. The app then sends a prompt asking if you need assistance and can even notify a pre-determined contact that you may have been in an accident.

We certainly hope that you’ll never need these tips - but chances are that some of them will come in handy at some point or another for many drivers out there. It never hurts to be prepared for the worst, even while hoping for the best. Share these guidelines with those you love and especially with young drivers to promote safety and teach others how best to handle the stressful situation of a car crash.

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