Whether a little prang or a more serious incident, no one wants to experience the stress of a car accident. Unfortunately, nearly 1 in 5 surveyed Aussies have been in a car accident in the last five years, according to recent Roy Morgan findings. So, what should you do if you are in a car accident?
10 steps to help you immediately after a car accident
- Remain calm. Car accidents can be scary, even relatively minor ones. Avoid letting panic take over in the moments following an accident.
- Stay safe. If you can do so safely, move your car out of traffic. Use your indicators / put on your hazard lights to ensure you move your vehicle safely off the road. It may not be possible to move your vehicle. If this is the case, put your hazard lights on to assist other drivers to identify your car as a potential hazard. Once your car is at rest, turn it off and remove the key from the ignition.
- Check for injuries. Once you have safely removed your vehicle from the road or ensured that other motorists can clearly identify your car as a hazard, check yourself for injuries. If you are uninjured and can safely exit the vehicle, do so, and assess the other involved parties for injury as well. If there are injuries, call 000 for emergency services support.
- (Possibly) Call the police. Not all accidents require police attendance. However, if there are injuries to people or property (other than vehicles) you should call 000 to request police attend and assess the accident. If you suspect drugs or alcohol may be involved in the accident, call the police to attend, regardless of whether or not any injuries have been sustained.
- Don’t admit fault. Sometimes, our instinct is to apologise to help calm a tense situation, but this isn’t the best course of action after a car accident. Never admit fault for an accident, even if you think it is your fault. You are only seeing the details of the accident from your perspective and there may be circumstances external to you that you aren’t aware of at the time of the accident. Your insurer will assess the accident and help determine fault with any witness accounts and/or police reports available.
- Document evidence. Thank goodness for smartphones! These days, almost everyone has a camera in their phone, which makes documenting damage all vehicles involved in the accident much easier. Make sure you take photos of damage to your vehicle from several angles; do the same for damage to any other vehicles involved and any property that may have been damaged.
- Note the environment. Take note of the exact location of the crash, as precisely as you can. Write down any environmental factors that could have influenced things leading up to the accident, like weather and road conditions.
- Exchange details. Now’s the time to exchange all the necessary details with any other involved parties. Make sure you obtain and exchange the following information:
- Full name
- Phone number & email address
- Vehicle registration details, as well as make, model and colour of the vehicle.
- Insurer information
- If there are witnesses, try to get their contact details as well. If police officers attend the scene, make sure you get their names and badge numbers for your records as well.
- Assess roadworthiness of your vehicle. Carefully assess the level of damage your vehicle has sustained. If you can safely drive it home or to your insurers nearest assessment centre, then do so. Otherwise, now is the time to call a tow truck to remove your vehicle from the accident site.
- Contact your insurer. Once you have exchanged information, contact your insurer to find out what your next steps should be to have your claim assessed and get you and your vehicle on the road to recovery.
Be prepared by keeping documents in your car
While we’d all like to avoid being in a car accident, however minor, many of us will have the unfortunate experience during our driving lifetime. It always helps to be prepared. Have your insurance information, car registration details and emergency contact details easily available. Keeping a hardcopy of this information in your glove compartment is a great idea. You could even print these tips and have them handy with your information, so you can refer to it if you ever need to.
It’s absolutely essential you be prepared for an accident, especially since so many of us have ended up in one in the last few years. Having a step by step plan not only helps you make sure everything is covered, but can go towards focusing your mind should an accident occur.