Immediately following an accident, things can become chaotic and overwhelming. Following some basic steps can make handling your accident a bit easier. First, you should think about your safety before you think about your insurance. If someone is injured, call 911. Next, stay calm. Being in a car wreck is a scary thing, but becoming increasingly upset will just make it worse.

Ironically, it’s what you do before an accident that will make you better prepared after an accident. Being prepared can prevent stress after an accident. Make sure to keep a copy of your insurance information and a pen and paper in your car; it will make the post-accident process much easier.

You are required by law to have proof of your insurance with you; to make this easier most insurers provide cards that have all your insurance information already on them. Many cell phones come equipped with a camera, but if your phone doesn’t have one or it takes low-quality photos, it’s a good idea to keep a disposable camera in your vehicle as well. Here are some useful tips for dealing with a car accident:

Get Off the Road

Before you start gathering information from the other motorists after an accident, it is important to get to safety as quickly as you can. If you had a minor fender bender, you do not have to leave the cars where they are. The police will not come to file a report on a minor accident; however, they will come to tell you to move your vehicle. Move out of the way of oncoming traffic to keep you and other motorists safe. But if you ca not move your car without causing further damage, do not try. Your insurance company should be able to hire a tow truck to move your vehicle for you.

Watch What You Say

After an accident, you should speak to the other driver only to get his or her information and to make sure the driver is okay. Do not admit fault or even say that you are sorry during your conversation as it could be used against you in court.

Gather Information

Your insurance company will need specific information in order to file your claim. You may need to fill out information about the other motorists involved, the name of your insurance representative and whether or not there was any damage to your vehicle.

If you are in a crash, write down the following information of the people involved:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Make, model and year of the car
  • License plate number
  • Insurance carrier
  • Insurance policy number
  • Name and contact information for any witnesses
  • Take these photos, if you can
  • Damage to your vehicle
  • Accident location
  • People involved with the accident

Get information from the officer if there is one on the scene:

  • Name
  • Badge or ID number
  • Phone number
  • Police report number

Ask the police officer for a copy of the police report. The officer’s opinion of the accident will be useful in the event that any one of the drivers has a dispute during claims processing. The police report will also contain the officer’s information, in case he or she is needed to testify.

File Your Claim

Call your insurance provider to start your claim; your insurance company’s phone number is most likely staffed 24/7. Your claims representative will likely contact you within 24 hours to discuss the details of your claim.

An Action Plan for Dealing with an Accident

Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Glove Compartment. Drivers should carry a mobile phone, as well as pen and paper for taking notes, a disposable camera to take pictures of the cars at the scene, and a card with information about medical allergies or conditions that may require special attention if there are serious injuries. Also, keep a list of contact numbers for law enforcement agencies handy. A set of cones, warning triangles or emergency flares are advisable as well.

Keep Safety First. Drivers involved in minor accidents with no serious injuries should move cars to the side of the road and out of the way of traffic. Leaving cars parked in the middle of the road or busy intersection can result in additional mishaps and injuries. If a vehicle cannot be moved, drivers and passengers should remain inside with seatbelts fastened for everyone’s safety until help arrives. Make sure to turn on hazard lights and set out cones, flares or warning triangles if you can.

Exchange Information. After the an automobile accident, exchange the following information: name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number for the driver and the owner of every vehicle involved. If the driver’s name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is and take down the name and address for each individual. Also make a description in writing of each car, including year, make, model and color. Be sure to include the exact location of the collision and how it happened. Finally, be polite but refrain from admitting fault, even if you think you bear some responsibility for the collision.

Photograph and Document the Accident. Use your camera to document all vehicle damage. Remember, you want all of your photos to show the overall context of the accident in order to make your case to a claims adjuster. If witnesses were present, try to get their information; they may be able to help you if the other drivers dispute your version of the accident.

File An Accident Report. Although many law enforcement officers may not actually respond to accidents unless someone is injured, Texas motorists should still file a state vehicle accident report, which is available at local police stations and sometimes available online. A police report can help quicken the claims process for insurance companies.

One of the biggest questions in dealing with an automobile accident is who will pay for the damages? If the accident was a minor one, you and the drivers involved may decide to take care of the damages yourselves, without having to involve insurance agencies. But this isn’t always the greatest idea.

While the other motorist may agree to pay for the damage to your vehicle on the actual day of the accident, they may see the repair bills and suddenly change their mind. At this juncture, too much time has passed and your insurance company or the other person’s insurance company may try to deny your claim due to the passage of time.

Car accidents take a huge toll on everyone involved, be it monetarily or emotionally. If you’re one of the few lucky motorists who have so far avoided being in a serious car wreck, hopefully the tips provided above will help you keep it that way. Realistically, the chances of remaining accident-free are very low. If it does happen, don’t panic, keep your head on straight, and make safety your top priority.