How to Handle the Immediate Aftermath of a Car Accident

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Car accidents are sometimes, unfortunately, unavoidable. But how you respond to them can seriously alter their lasting impact on both your finances and your physical person. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

Who Do You Call After a Car Accident?

If you’re wondering who to turn to after a car accident, this is probably the answer you don’t want to hear: If there was significant damage or if anyone was even mildly hurt, then you need to call the police. You might be nervous about doing this, but it’s actually in your best interest, especially if the other driver was primarily or fully at fault for the accident. The police officer who responds will file an official report that will become part of your case should you need to file a property damage claim, auto accident injury claim or personal injury lawsuit down the road.

Obviously, if anyone has been hurt, then you should call for emergency medical services first and sort out everything else later. If no one has been hurt, then you’ll have a little more time to think. If you’re shaken up and want to have someone to support you, it’s a good idea to call a spouse, partner or close friend who can keep you calm and thinking clearly. You’ll also want to contact your insurance agent as soon as possible to determine how long you have to file a claim.

What Do You Do After a Car Accident?

Even if the police are documenting the scene, you should get some documentation of your own. You’ll need to get some basic information from the other driver (name, address, phone number, insurance carrier, policy number, car license plate number); if you’re worried you’ll forget to take down something vital, you can print a list and keep it in your glove compartment so that all you’ll have to do is fill out the form you’ve pre-made.

It’s also a good idea to take some photos, either on your cell phone or a disposable camera you keep in the car for this specific purpose. Get pictures of all the cars involved from various angles, and also document the surrounding environment (curves in the road, signs, weather conditions, etc.), since this may have a bearing on the assignation of fault.

Who do you call after a car accident, if you’ve been in one before? Share what you did — and what you wish you had done — in the comments.

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