CRASH! What do I do at the scene?

Oh no – you got into a car accident – what do you do? If you were me at 18, you would step out of the car really shaken up and then sink on your knees on the grass and yell hysterically, “I actually wrecked the car! My dad is going to kill me!!!” Well, it wasn’t my fault and he didn’t kill me. Accidents happen every single day, and most of us have an idea of what we would do at the scene. Do you?

An accident can be a huge deal or it can be a little fender bender. Each one is different, but there are a few ways to handle them. Here are the basics:

  1. Stop immediately and stay calm – YA RIGHT… I know its really hard, but it is the best thing you can do. A calm mind will be enable you to analyze the situation and make decisions much easier.
  2. Warn oncoming traffic – I am not sure how you do this but I would advise putting on your 4 ways and getting out of the car – as safely as possible (don’t step into oncoming traffic).
  3. Make sure everyone is alright – cars are just machines – make sure any passengers are okay, check for pedestrians, and check on other parties. In the case of a fender bender, people are more likely shaken up and not seriously hurt.If there are people that are injured, make sure you don’t give first aid unless you are trained – you don’t want to make injuries worse by fumbling around. The side effect of accidents is that they always draw a crowd, if you can, try calling out for some help and usually a trained person comes to help (or be proactive and get yourself trained!)
  4. Call an ambulance or doctor.
  5. Don’t argue, accuse or admit anything – there is plenty of time to do that later – just make your report as you saw it happen to the police when they come.
  6. Call the appropriate law enforcement agency – 911 dispatch will usually ask you about the situation and dispatch the appropriate services.
  7. Get all names, licensed numbers, car/contact details, witnesses and occupant names – this is critical especially if you are innocent or need to prove your innocence!!
  8. Report the collision to your insurance broker.

The list above is the official way to do things. Is are un-official methods available to you…of course there are. We all know that the big accidents are usually handled formally, but the little ones are typically handled “under the table.” Insurance folk know it happens a lot, but we won’t endorse it. As a broker, my official position is that every accident should be reported to your broker and insurance company. You never know if an accident will come back to bite you for unapparent long-term injuries.

Here are a few things to remember for both people in the accident (the hitter and hittee):

  • The situation sucks for both of you – nothing disrupts your day more than having some jerk hit you from behind… On the other hand, nothing frustrates your day more than hitting someone from behind – that one moment of distraction changes you.
  • Try to remember that the other person did not mean to hit you – the person is probably a stressed out parent like you (especially if in a minivan)
  • Come to a mutually satisfying agreement – Don’t try to “screw” a person for more money – honestly – if you want to get your car fixed, just get it done. NOTE:
    • If your car was hit: Most people have a person they know who will do the job for them for less (you may even have one). If you don’t feel comfortable, just say so.
    • If you hit someone else’s car: See above. If they aren’t comfortable going with “your guy” then shucks…too bad! The extra expense that you have to pay to go through the dealership is nothing compared to the premium increase you will get with an at-fault collision imposed on you.

There you have it, some quick tips to help you in an auto accident situation. Good Luck and Safe Driving!

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