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What to Do After a Car Accident: 5 Steps

Amy Danise

You may feel disoriented and worried after a car accident, so know what to do before one happens.

Depending on your state, you may be required to report a car accident to law enforcement or another department. If there were injuries or death you are usually required to report it. Other requirements to report an accident generally depend on the amount of property damage.

Click your state below to find out how long you have to report an accident and the rules for reporting based on the amount of property damage.

What to do after a car accident

1. Move your car to the side of the road, if possible.
Getting out of the way is important for avoiding any further car damage or injury.

2. Check for injuries
Ask your passengers and others involved if they're injured. If anyone is hurt, call 911 right away. It's smart to call even if there are no injuries so that you can get a police report of the accident later, although not all police departments will respond to accidents without injuries.

3. Be careful what you say
Don't blame others or say you were at fault. If it's unclear who caused the accident, blame will be determined later by the police and/or insurance company.

4. Document the situation
Take several quick photos of your car, other cars involved and the scene where it happened. It's also good to get photos of the other vehicles' license plates -- and snapping a photo is easier than writing down license plate numbers. Get the insurance information of the other drivers, and be prepared to give your own. Get contact information for any eyewitnesses. If the police respond, get the officer's name and badge number.

5. Contact your insurance company
Once you've had a chance to get home, your car insurance company can help you start the claims process and tell you what insurance you have that applies. Call your insurer's claims hotline, which is typically listed on your insurance ID card. Many insurers also have options for starting a claim online or through their mobile apps.

If someone else caused the accident, you may be making a claim against their liability car insurance.

Note that you may be required to report the accident to your insurance company. Your auto insurance policy likely contains a section that outlines your duties after an accident, such as:

  • Give prompt notice after an accident. Notify your car insurance company about when, where and how the accident happened, names of the parties involved, and if there were any injuries or witnesses.
  • Cooperate with your insurance company. Your insurance company may need to investigate the accident. Your policy may require you to: provide paperwork such as legal documents you receive; take a physical exam by a doctor the insurer chooses; let your insurer obtain medical reports and other records; and be questioned under oath.
  • Report hit-and-run accidents. If you were involved in a hit-and-run accident and want to file a claim under your underinsured motorists coverage, you'll likely need to report the accident to the police as soon as possible.
  • Protect your car from further damage. If your car is damaged in an accident, it's best to take steps to prevent further damage, such as moving the vehicle to a safe location.