When you’ve been in a car accident, the fight or flight response is activated. Unfortunately, you don’t have the option of fleeing. In this situation, you’re backed into a corner, and you have no choice but to deal with the consequences of unforeseen events head on. Even though your mind is flooded with unbelievable stress hormones, you should immediately make a checklist of the things you need to do.
First and foremost, ensure your own safety. Directly after a car accident, pull off to the side of the road. If the immediate area isn’t safe, try to signal any other drivers involved and pull into a nearby parking lot. If either vehicle is put out of commission and cannot be moved, mark the site of the accident with flares if you have them, and then move to the side of the road.
Once you know you’re safe, immediately alert the police that an accident has occurred. Although the police will try to find out as much as possible about what happened and who was at fault, be careful to limit what you say. Answer questions without elaboration and never admit fault.
If you have a camera, begin taking photographs of the site of the accident–but only if it’s safe to do so. You’ll want pictures of license plate numbers, the vehicle from every angle, and close-ups of any obvious damage to any vehicles involved in the accident. If you were hurt, take a quick picture of your injury.
After that, start trading information with anyone else involved. Find out insurance policy information, and then record license plate numbers and the make and model of the vehicles. If there were bystanders who witnessed the accident, record their contact information. If anyone gives you a hard time about getting information, simply inform the police when they arrive. Don’t risk getting into a heated argument or a physical confrontation. It won’t be worth it in the long run.
In the days following your accident, document medical bills and other expenses. Take pictures of any injuries on a daily basis. Create a journal in order to record your thoughts and feelings and other information about the accident. When you find a lawyer, this documentation can help tremendously.