What To Do After a Car Accident

Wondering what to do after a car accident? Check for injuries, move to a safe place, document damage, exchange driver information, and contact your insurer.
Written by Olivia Rose
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
If you get into a car accident, you’ll need to check for injuries, move to a safe location, document the accident, exchange information with other drivers, and contact your insurance company.
After the dust has settled and you exchange information, you'll need to decide if you want to file a car accident claim.
Accidents can feel overwhelming, so knowing the steps of the post-accident process are key. That’s why
, the
car insurance
comparison tool, has compiled everything you need to know about what to do after a car accident.

1. Check yourself and passengers for injuries

The first thing to do after any car crash is to assess whether you or any passengers have
injuries from the car accident
. If anyone is injured, call 911 for an ambulance.
If you or any passengers are severely injured, try not to move and wait for emergency personnel to arrive and assess you. Moving can worsen your injury.
Even if the accident is minor, it’s a good idea to call the police. This way, you’ll have a police report of the accident that you can give to your insurance provider if you decide to file a claim.

2. Move to a safe location

If you’re able to safely operate your vehicle, move to a safe location. If you’re on a highway, find a wide shoulder in a high-visibility area where you can pull over and avoid being hit by oncoming vehicles.
If you have any emergency tools, like road flares, put them out to warn approaching vehicles. If there’s any possibility of an explosion, be sure to keep everyone well away from the vehicle.
Key Takeaway Immediately after a crash, it’s most important to make sure you and other passengers are safe. Check everyone for injuries and move your car to a safe location.

3. Document the crash

When it comes to dealing with insurance providers after an accident, documenting the crash and damages to your vehicle is essential.
Take pictures of the scene and all visible damage on your vehicle and any other vehicle involved in the accident. It doesn’t hurt to take pictures of all vehicles in their entirety—there might be damage not immediately visible.
If you can, immediately email yourself the pictures you take. This will prevent you from misplacing any documentation—and it will provide you and your insurance company with a timestamp for the damages.
If you call the police after your accident, be sure to document the police report number and the name and number of the officer on the scene. It’s also a good idea to write down the names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the crash.
Key Takeaway Taking photos of the scene and the vehicles can be helpful for you and your insurer if you decide to file a claim.
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4. Exchange information

When you document the crash, you must also exchange information with any other drivers or people involved. Here’s what you’ll want to get for each person:
  • Name
  • Contact information
  • License plate number
  • Insurance provider
  • Insurance policy number
Drivers without auto insurance
can face significant penalties, including fines and license suspension. Regardless, the costs of covering medical bills and vehicle damage if you’re
uninsured in an accident
can be exorbitant and detrimental to your finances.
Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Car insurance doesn’t have to be unreasonably expensive—the car insurance comparison app
helps you find the cheapest policies with all the coverage you need.
Key Takeaway Get the name, contact information, license plate number, and insurance information from each driver involved in the accident—and make sure you have sufficient insurance coverage while behind the wheel.

5. Verify your insurance coverage

Once you’ve documented the accident and can safely return home, verify your insurance coverage to see if you can submit a claim to your insurance provider.
You might
decide against making a claim
—we’ll look at some of the reasons below—but you will need to know what your policy covers to begin with.
Payouts by insurance providers vary depending on who is found at fault in the accident and whether all drivers involved have adequate coverage.
Here’s what it might look like if you’re not at fault.

What covers damages or injuries to you, your passengers, or your vehicle?

The other driver’s insurance will cover damages to your vehicle through
property damage liability coverage
up to their policy limit.
If the other driver has
bodily injury liability
, this will cover your medical bills up to their policy limit.
If you live in a no-fault state, your
personal injury protection
will cover some or all of your medical bills.

What covers damages or injuries to the at-fault driver (and their vehicle)?

Collision coverage
—which usually isn’t legally required—will pay for the at-fault driver’s car damages. If applicable, the medical payments coverage portion of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will help cover their medical expenses.

Optional coverages that could apply

Key Takeaway Having adequate insurance coverage is key to ensuring your expenses will be covered after an accident.

6. Decide if you want to file a claim

Before you file a claim with your insurance company, consider whether it’s the best option for you. If you are at fault and the cost of damages to your vehicle is less than (or near) your deductible, filing a claim might not be worth it.
If you do file a claim, you’ll probably need to pay your deductible and it’s possible that your insurance premium may rise afterward.
You should file a claim as soon as you can, as there is a
time limit for filing claims

How to find lower insurance rates

Maybe the course of your car accident and its fallout made you realize you don’t have the
car insurance
coverage you’d like with your current policy. Or maybe you’re looking at increased rates after having an at-fault accident on your driving record.
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"Jerry found me the best quotes for my needs and also a comparison list, so I had a few companies to choose from. It was fast and painless, and you can use your bank/debit/credit card. If you’re in the market for new insurance coverage of any type check out the Jerry app, I highly recommend it!" —Satisfied Jerry customer


What should you not say after a car accident?

There’s a lot of information on what to do after a car accident not your fault—but what you say (or don’t say) is equally important. Avoid the following statements:
"I’m sorry." Yes, it might feel rude not to say sorry—especially if you think you might have been at fault. But remember that accidents are discombobulating and you don’t have all the details yet. Saying "I’m sorry" could make you culpable when you weren’t actually at fault.
"It was my fault." Again, you don’t have all the details yet—and you might be saying this out of an automatic emotional reaction. Even if you firmly believe you were at fault (and want to be honest), there is no need to state it right after the accident.
"I’m not hurt." Injuries are not always immediately apparent. Don’t tell police or insurance companies that you aren’t hurt until you have been examined by a medical professional.
"I think…" If you are not 100% sure of the details, that’s okay—say "I don’t know." Saying "I think…" statements can lead you to fill in information gaps incorrectly, which isn’t helpful for anyone involved in the accident.

What should I do after a car accident without insurance?

You still must exchange information with the other driver(s) involved—so you will have to rely on other information like your name, number, and driver’s license number.
Most importantly, purchase car insurance immediately. It is dangerous to your finances and often illegal to be driving without car insurance.

What to do after a minor car accident where no one was hurt?

If you were in a minor accident with no injuries and your car is safe to drive, move to a safe location, and then you can contact your insurance company. Even if the police didn’t attend the scene, you may need to file an accident report within a certain time period.
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