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What Should I Do After a Car Accident?

When you’ve been in a car accident, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s why we’ve put together a “What to do after a car accident” checklist — to help you navigate the aftermath of an accident — and make sure your situation gets handled as smoothly and safely as possible.

What to Do After a Car Accident

The aftermath of a car accident can be stressful and disorienting. From minor accidents to major collisions, it’s key to be thorough, collected and aware. Take a look at our advice on what you to do after a car accident:

Remain calm

Remaining calm and collected right after a car accident is crucial to easing the negative effects that come with it. In addition to keeping your cool, make sure to follow these next steps to get the best possible outcome.

Safely move your vehicle out of traffic

If you’re in traffic and can drive your vehicle, do your best to move it out of traffic. If you can't move it, don't try. Turn off your engine and turn on your hazard lights.

Check for injuries

If you or any of your passengers are hurt, can't get out of your car or it's not safe to try, keep your seatbelt fastened and turn on your hazard lights remain inside your vehicle. Communicate with your passengers if possible but do not move them.

Call 911

Call emergency services as soon as possible, especially if you or your passengers are injured. If no one is hurt, it’s still a smart idea to call the police non-emergency number as many areas legally require you to report accidents. Check your local police department’s website for their non-emergency number. Even in minor car accidents you should call the police, as an official accident report and visit from an officer can be very helpful when submitting an insurance claim.

Don't blame anyone for the accident

Even though your emotions might be running high, don’t accept the blame or put it on the other driver. Even if the accident is clearly the other driver’s fault, accepting blame to be polite or courteous could come back to bite you later on. Instead, make sure they and their passengers are OK after checking on everyone in your vehicle.

What to Document After an Accident

In addition to contacting first-responders and ensuring the safety of yourself and others involved in the accident, it’s now time to get the details you’ll need in order to file a claim, if necessary:

Exchange information with the other driver

Share your name and insurance company with the other driver and ask that they share the same with you. Make it easy by taking a picture of each other’s driver’s licenses and insurance cards. And if the other driver doesn’t have insurance, call the police if you haven’t already.

Take pictures of the accident

If you can, snap a photo of any other drivers involved, their license plates and any damage done to all vehicles. Take photos of the scene, the roads, traffic signs and the direction each vehicle was traveling. It can be hard to remember these details even a few hours later, and the photos can be useful to both your insurance company and police.

Write down the details

Try and take down as many details as you can as soon as possible after the accident. Stressful events like car accidents can distort your memory, making it very difficult to remember important details later on. The details you might need include:

  • Year, make, model and color of any other cars — as well as any other distinguishing features
  • Driver and passenger names and ages
  • Exact location
  • Your speed
  • Date and time of the incident
  • Weather conditions
  • Time police arrived, their name(s) and their badge number(s)
  • Road conditions
  • Names and contact information of any witnesses

Get a copy of the accident report

Make sure it includes all officers’ names and contact information. This information is especially helpful for your potential insurance claim and can help back up the sequence of events after the accident if you end up in court.

Call a tow truck

If your vehicle is unsafe to drive, call a tow truck or professional mechanic to get your car checked out and back home safely. And if you have American Family's Emergency Roadside Service, all it'll take is a quick phone call to get professionals on the scene as soon as possible.

Call your American Family Insurance agent

The sooner your agent is aware of the accident, the sooner they can help you get your car repaired and your life back to normal.

Am I Required to File a Police Report After an Accident?

Because each state has unique rules that trigger when a police report should be filed, it’s important to know the laws where you are so you’ll know what to do after a car accident. Most states base their requirements on the cost for repairs and damage done to the vehicles involved. And if the accident involves a serious injury, fatality or property damage over a certain threshold, you’ll need to file a police report.

When it comes to what to do after a minor car accident, you may need to file a police report even if it doesn’t seem necessary — because seemingly small dents and dings can sometimes cost a lot to repair. If you’re wondering, “What should I do after a car accident,” take a look at this table to help you better understand state requirements on when you should file a police report:

Property damage cost range*
District of Columbia
$50 - $300
New Jersey
New Mexico
$500 - $750
New Hampshire
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
West Virginia
New York
South Dakota
$1,500 - $3,000
All accidents
Puerto Rico
In the event of death, injury or disabled vehicle

*In most states, an accident must be reported to the police in the event of a death, injury or qualifying property damage. Also note that the amount of property damage and deadlines to file a police report vary from state to state. Check with your local DMV for up-to-date requirements and details

What to Do After You Leave the Scene of the Accident

Now that you’ve gotten through the toughest part of the incident, you should make sure the process keeps running smoothly by taking these post-accident tips into consideration.

File a claim

Contact your insurance provider and file a claim. If you have American Family Insurance, you can file a claim using the MyAmFam app — 24/7, wherever you are. You can also file your claim by logging in to My Account. And depending on the incident, it could take as little as a couple minutes to get it filed — and get you back on the road.

Reporting an auto insurance claim online is more than just efficient. Doing so can get you updated details on the claims process — you’ll know just what to do after a car accident — we'll be there to help you every step of the way.

Here’s some of the benefits to filing your claim online with American Family Insurance:

  • You can file a claim anytime, anywhere
  • You’ll be able to track your claim and it’s status in real-time
  • You’ll enjoy easy communication with your claims representative — by phone or email

Don't have MyAmFam? Download it today :

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store

And remember, you can always call us at 1-800-MYAMFAM (1-800-692-6326) to speak with a claims representative or reach out to your American Family Insurance agent at any time.

Don’t sign anything

Don’t sign paperwork from the other driver’s attorney or insurance company after the accident. Your insurance company will handle this for you.

Take care of yourself

Getting in a car accident can be scary, and the physical and emotional symptoms can be different for everyone. Before you rush back to work, school or daily life, make sure you’re ok. Get a doctor’s appointment on the books if you’re not feeling like yourself. Even if you don’t think you were injured in the accident, take inventory of how you’re feeling a few days afterward and visit a doctor if anything feels off.

Decide if you need an attorney

Contact a lawyer for a quick assessment of your situation. Many lawyers offer free consultations for car accidents to help you understand if it’s the right choice for you. Be sure to consult with several different lawyers before choosing one.

Prepare for the Unexpected with the Right Insurance Coverage

It can be tough to know what to do after a car accident, but your American Family Insurance agent is always there to help you prepare for the unexpected. Get in touch with your agent today and make sure your car insurance policy has you covered in the event of a crash. And if you found this article helpful, make sure to check out these other articles to get you back on the road with the right coverage to protect you and your ride.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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Related Topics: On The Road , My Account