what to do after a car crash

What to Do After a Car Crash

Even the most confident and relaxed drivers can quickly find themselves emotional and scrambling to figure out what to do after a car crash.

To help you get through this stressful situation as calmly and efficiently as possible, we recommend preparing yourself with this list of tips from AAA.

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Assist any injured parties

Quickly check with those involved in the collision to determine if there are any injuries. If medical attention is needed, call 911.

Control the scene of the crash

Do not leave the scene of the crash, but get to a safe place out of the way of oncoming traffic while waiting for emergency services to arrive. If the vehicle is drivable, safely move to the right or left emergency lane. Some state laws require drivable vehicles to be removed from the roadway to avoid traffic congestion and dangerous maneuvers from other drivers.

Then, turn on your hazard lights and set out warning flares or reflective triangles. It’s a good idea to always keep a well-equipped emergency kit in your car for situations like this.

what to do after a car crash

Notify the police and submit a report

Knowing what to do after a car crash also involves knowing what paperwork you should file. The law requires you notify the police of a car crash. No matter what either party says, call the police and file a report.

Having a report on file may help later if a liability claim is filed.

Document the scene and exchange information

It is important to exchange and gather information with all parties involved in the crash, including witnesses. Having this on file will help complete any future paperwork or address potential problems. AAA suggests documenting the following.

  • The names of those involved.
  • Addresses and/or email addresses.
  • Vehicle information including makes, models and years for all cars involved.
  • Vehicle identification and/or license plate numbers for all cars involved.
  • Driver’s license numbers for drivers involved.
  • Insurance carriers and policy numbers for drivers involved.
  • Photos of the location, people involved and damaged vehicles.

If your car won’t start or needs to be towed, this is when your AAA Roadside Assistance membership benefits go in to action.

Use the AAA Mobile app to request AAA services or go to AAA.com/GetMoving to request roadside service online.

Notify your insurance carrier

What to do after a car crash also involves letting your insurance provider know so car repair and medical expenses can be sorted. Your insurance provider should be notified immediately after a crash to start the proper claim filing.

Many insurance companies have an app or staff available 24/7 who can assist right away. Having proof of insurance in your vehicle is required by law and makes filing a claim easier if you’re not at home. Some insurance apps offer digital insurance cards, which you should look into before you need them.

Get your vehicle repaired

You have the right to get your vehicle repaired at body shop of your own choosing. In addition to facilities suggested by your insurance company, consider a quality AAA Approved Auto Repair shop.

AAA’s network of repair shops are inspected annually, and vetted for affordability, expertise, cleanliness and more. There are hundreds in the Northeast and thousands across the country, so they can help no matter where the accident occurs.

Address unattended vehicles or property

If you are involved in a crash that involves an unattended vehicle or property, take action to inform the owner. If you can’t find the owner, attach a written notice of the collision to the vehicle or property, being sure to include your contact information and information listed above. Leaving a crash, no matter how minor, is considered a hit-and-run and is punishable by fines and possible jail time in some states.

Be prepared to assume legal and financial responsibility after a car crash. Resist letting your emotions get in the way of deciding who is at fault and never let yourself be pressured into admitting fault. If you feel it’s necessary, you can consult with an attorney before giving a statement.

To find out more about what to do after a car crash and prepare for other stressful driving situations, consider taking the AAA Defensive Driving Course.

Learn more about AAA auto insurance. 

7 Thoughts on “What to Do After a Car Crash

  1. How about making a printable version of these instructions in a more compact format so that we can keep it in our glove compartments?

    1. Hi Penny, thanks for the suggestion! We’ll look into making a more compact version to keep in the car. In the meantime, there is a print button at the very bottom of the story if you’d like a physical copy of the information.

  2. I absolutely agree about ALWAYS calling the police and getting a police report. My wife was in an accident where the junior operator turned left illegally and hit her with the side of his car. She did not get a police report (where he would have been cited) and he and his father lied to their insurance company. They we found not at fault and this insurance tried to subrogate the cost of this repairs to me. This would not have happened if the police were there and they cited him. ALWAYS call the police and ALWAYS get a report. Even if they say you don’t need one, get it. I just may get a dash can because people lie and there is nothing you can do about it.

  3. Thanks for the tip about always remembering to list the make and models of the cars involved in a crash. My son was recently in a crash and luckily he remembered to do this. I’m hoping that we can find a lawyer to help represent him in court.

  4. Get a copy of the police report and review it. Many years ago, I was in an accident that the police reported as 2 accidents. 1 where a car had a mechanical failure and hit me twice. The 2nd accident was written as me cutting off a truck in another lane. It took a while, but I was able to get the state police and the insurance companies to agree that it was only 1 accident with 3 cars.

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