If you find yourself in a car accident, step one is to steady your nerves. Stop and do a mental check. Does anything hurt? Does anything feel broken? Bleeding? Pinched? Any aching or throbbing? Make sure you’re in good shape before you try to move.
Some people will tell you that the first thing to do in an accident is determine who’s at fault. You do want to piece the crash together in your mind so that you have your facts straight, but not until you’ve made sure that you’re all in one piece. Once you know you can walk away from the accident, follow these steps to ensure your safety and your side of the story.
Making Mental Notes
Go over the details leading up to the accident. Try to get the facts straight. Now, unless you’re a psychic with a photographic memory, you won’t have all the facts. There’s going to be some confusion. Just try to get the facts as straight as possible. Piece the story together in your head right now, because trying to remember based on loose details later on will leave you with essentially nothing to fall back on when it comes time to defend your position in court or in a claim.
Set the Scene
If it’s an accident that leaves you able to walk, but not drive, away, then you’ll need to turn off your emergency lights, make sure everyone’s okay, and then put some road flares out. This is the time to call 911 to deal with the accident if anyone was hurt or anyone’s car was wrecked.
Photographing the Scene
Take your cell phone camera or your disposable emergency kit camera and start photographing the car accident. Make sure to get a lot of coverage so that you can provide the courts or your insurer with photographic evidence of the scene later on.
Talk to the Other Driver
If you haven’t yet, swap insurance information with the other driver, but try not to argue with them right now. Don’t concede anything they say to them, or they might try to use that in court “Well he SAID that it might have been HIS fault!” etc. Just don’t argue with them at all. Present your side of the story if they ask for it, but just step away and wait for the authorities to arrive if they don’t seem willing to hear you out.
Ultimately, the facts of the matter are for insurers and the courts to decide. Few cases have been won by an argument out in the middle of traffic.
Remember that the most important thing is always preserving the safety of yourself and other drivers. While there’s a lot to consider when it comes to documenting an accident, when it comes to keeping yourself in the clear, legally speaking, the most important thing is being safe. Keep a fully stocked emergency kit and don’t hesitate to call 911 if someone is hurt.