What Should I Do After A Car Accident? (Checklist)

car accident checklist

Our car accident checklist can help you decide your next steps. When you’ve been an accident you may be left wondering what to do next. However, a lot of people get it wrong in the moment.

There are a few things that could put you in a bad situation if you don’t follow.

Let’s Get Started.

Before a Crash: Be Prepared, Wear a Seatbelt

If you’re going to drive a car, you should be prepared for an accident. Make a habit of always wearing your seatbelt and ensuring that your passengers do the same. In Ohio, about 40% of fatalities in crashes are ones in which the persons killed — more than 400 each year — were not wearing their seatbelts.

You should also always have a copy of your insurance information along with a pen and a pad of paper to take down the information of other drivers. In addition, keep a fold-up emergency reflective triangle in your trunk or your glove box; you can use it to alert other drivers to the wreck so they’re careful when passing. A marker also can make it easier for emergency personnel to find you in poor-visibility conditions.

Finally, keep a space blanket and some bottled water in the car at all times. You’ll want to be able to keep injured people, children, and yourself warm and hydrated while police and paramedics are on their way. You also may want to keep a generic first-aid kit in the car for minor injuries.

At the Scene of an Accident: Car Accident Checklist

There are several things you should remember at the scene of an accident, from staying put and staying calm to making sure no one is injured and calling for help. Here are the steps you should take if you’re in a car accident:

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1. Remain at the Scene

First, stay put. Never leave the scene of an accident right away. If someone is hurt and you leave the scene, you could face criminal hit-and-run charges. The crime is called “failure to stop.” At best, it’s a misdemeanor under Ohio law. Ohio Revised Code Ch. 4549. If the injuries are serious or fatal, it’s a felony and you face jail time and loss of your license.

Additionally, even if there aren’t any injuries or other vehicles involved and you damage any property at the scene of an accident and leave, you’re breaking the law. Per Ohio Revised Code 4549.03:

If the owner or person in charge of the property cannot be located after reasonable search, the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident resulting in damage to the property, within twenty-four hours after the accident, shall forward to the police department of the city or village in which the accident or collision occurred, or if it occurred outside the corporate limits of a city or village to the sheriff of the county in which the accident or collision occurred, the same information required to be given to the owner or person in control of the property and give the location of the accident and a description of the damage insofar as it is known.

Above all, remember to stay calm and be polite; tensions are high after a car crash but you need a cool head to handle the situation.

2. Check for Injuries

Check to make sure everyone involved is OK. If anyone needs medical attention, call for it immediately. If you believe someone may have injured their head, neck, or back in the crash, wait for medical personnel before trying to move that person. This is important for people of any age, but especially children, as they are still developing and they may be more susceptible to serious injuries.

Don’t forget to give yourself a once-over, too. When we’re stressed, our bodies release a lot of adrenaline. That acts as a natural painkiller, so you may not notice right away if you’ve been injured.

3. Get out of the Way of Danger

The next step is to get everyone off the road. Leave the cars where they are — you’ll need to take photos later and the police will want to see them in their original position. Just get all the people involved in the crash off to the side of the road so they’re not at risk for getting hit by a passing car. If you have an emergency reflective triangle in your car, set it out so that passing cars know you’re there.

Remember not to move any people who may have head, neck, or back injuries; moving them may cause more damage than it prevents.

4. Call the Police

If the crash is just a fender-bender, you probably don’t need to call the police. You can just exchange personal and insurance information with the other driver. If there’s extensive damage or if anyone was injured, you do need to call the police. They’ll want to speak to you, the other driver(s) involved, and any witnesses to the accident. You should ask for the names and badge numbers of the police at the scene and you should request a copy of the police report. You’ll need that information for your insurance claim.

5. Document the Damage

You should take a careful look at the damage to your car and any other property. Using your cellphone (or borrow one from a bystander if you don’t have one with you), take detailed pictures of any damage. Don’t just photograph your own car — take pictures of any other cars and property involved as well. That information can help the police reconstruct the circumstances of the accident and determine who is at fault. In addition to photographing the damage, you should get contact information from any witnesses in the area.

After a Car Accident: Car Accident Checklist

After a car accident, you’ll have to deal with a handful of things, depending on how severe the crash. If you were injured, you’ll need at least emergency medical care, if not follow-up with your primary doctor or even a hospital visit. Here are the top three things to do after a car accident.

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1. Notify the Insurance Company

Call your insurance company as soon as is practical to let them know you’ve been in an accident. Give them a clear, honest account about the accident and provide them with a copy of the police report. You can also give them the contact information of any witnesses to the wreck. That will help to back up your story and build your case with the insurance company.

Stick to the truth when you’re dealing with the insurance company. If you falsify information to your insurance company, you may forfeit the right to coverage. In extreme cases, you may be committing insurance fraud. Depending on the amount of money involved, you could be convicted of anything from a 1st degree misdemeanor to a 3rd degree felony in Ohio.

2. Track the Damage

If you receive any medical care for injuries sustained in the accident, keep careful records of everything. Keep a file of receipts for doctors’ appointments and follow-ups and any procedures and medications you need. You’ll need that documentation when you’re making your claim to the insurance company.

You also need to have your insurance adjuster assess the cost of the damage to your car and other property. They’re likely to give you a lower number than you want, so you may also choose to seek second and even third opinions on the cost of repairs or replacement. Take those independent opinions back to your adjuster and negotiate for a higher payment.

3. Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered injuries or serious property damage, the insurance company will want to settle the case quickly and finally. However, you shouldn’t accept a quick check before carefully considering your situation. In some cases, the true extent of injuries and the true cost of treatment take weeks or even months to show up. If you settle with the insurance company before your doctor clears you, you’ll have to pay for any subsequent medical expenses on your own.

If you’re uncertain about the insurance company’s offer, make sure to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Your attorney can help you go through the terms of the offer and decide whether it’s fair. If not, your attorney can help you negotiate for a bigger settlement.

A Tip: Keep the Details of Your Case Private

Loose lips sink ships — and cost a fortune in insurance settlements. Don’t discuss your accident with anyone but the police, your insurance company, and your attorney, if you retain one. Representatives from other insurance companies may contact you about the accident and a wrong word to them can cost you big money. You never have to speak to a representative from another company; just ask them to contact your attorney or insurance company to discuss the wreck.

Quick Answers

What Should I Keep In My Car?

Insurance Information
Road Marker

What to Do Immediately After an Accident?

Remain at the Scene
Check for Injuries
Get Out of the Way of Danger
Call the Police
Document the Damage

What to Do After Your Accident is Over?

Notify the Insurance Company
Track the Damage
Contact a Lawyer