Around 6 million car accidents occur each year in the United States. Should you find yourself in a fender bender, or a more serious accident, a sense of calm and preparedness is paramount. Don't let yourself be caught unprepared in an already stressful situation. Here are the things you need to be prepared to do if you are in a car accident.
ASSESS THE DAMAGE
First, assess the damage to yourself before anything else. When you are involved in an accident, the initial response will be adrenaline driven and it will take a moment for most people to process the situation. It is critical to pay attention to your environment and make sure you are no longer in harm's way. Take note of whether you are at risk of passing out, fainting, or becoming overwhelmed with fear or pain. Work through all of this and take steps to keep yourself safe, first and foremost. Don't rush to get out of your vehicle and assess the damage to you car before you assess your own wellbeing and the potential risks of getting out of your car. Avoid putting yourself in further danger by responding rashly, especially if your accident occurred on a busy roadway. If you cannot safely move your vehicle out of the roadway, stay in your vehicle and call law enforcement.
You are legally obligated to call law enforcement if your accident resulted in significant property damaged or injury. You are also obligated to contact law enforcement if the accident resulted in damage to public or private property including fire hydrants, light poles, or mailboxes. If there is any doubt about damage to either vehicles or the surrounding physical area, err on the side of caution and involve law enforcement. Don't shy away from contacting authorities even if you are at fault in an accident. Honest and fair documentation of the accident and the damages caused by the accident will protect both the person responsible for the accident from frivolous and excessive claims as much as it will protect the victim of the accident by documenting liability.
DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT
If there's damage to be assessed and documented, don't move either vehicle before this assessment has taken place unless it is unsafe to do so. If it's safe, walk around the scene of the accident and take pictures not only of any damage, but of the area immediately around the perimeter of the accident. In the world of litigation, pictures are worth more than any number of words. Good photographs can demonstrate facts that cannot be recreated without photographic evidence. It is important that all parties involved in an accident exchange information. Verify the submitted information immediately by calling each other's phone numbers, not only to ensure they were recorded properly, but also to avoid being "duped" by fake information present to avoid financial liability.
Accident preparedness starts and ends with the items you should also keep in your car. Your driver's license, vehicle registration and evidence of insurance should always be with you in your car. Driving of course comes with safety risks. Auto accidents are simply a part of life here in a society that depends so heavily on our cars. But being prepared, will help minimize the stress of even the most serious accidents. Stay safe and be prepared!