What To Do The Moment You're In A Car Accident

Daisy Rogozinsky
April 3, 2022
Last reviewed by
Boruch Burnham, Esq.
February 16, 2023

Car accidents can be a pretty scary experience that really shakes you, making it difficult to think clearly and act wisely. That’s why we’ve prepared this step-by-step guide to what you should do if you’re ever in a car accident in order to ensure your safety and the safety of others involved, follow the proper legal procedures, and increase the chances of fair compensation from your insurer.

1) Stay calm

The most important thing to do in the event of a motor vehicle accident is to remain calm. It can be overwhelming and scary to get into a car accident, but panicking can make you act irrationally. Try to take a few deep breaths and steady yourself before taking any other kind of action.

2) Stop the car

The next thing you will need to do is stop your car. While depending on the state and the particulars of the accident you may either be required to, or prohibited from, moving to the side of the road so as not to obstruct the flow of traffic or cause unsafe traffic conditions, as a general rule of thumb it is most likely to be required unless the accident has caused significant property damage or injuries. . When moving to the side of the road, it is best to turn on your hazard lights and, if you have them, set up flares and/or reflective emergency triangles.

3) Check for injuries

Once you are safely out of the way of traffic, check to see if you or any others who were in your car have been hurt. Check yourself first, noting that adrenaline may make it hard to tell that you are injured. Once you’re sure you’re safe, check other passengers. If there are injuries, you’ll need to call the police to the scene. Otherwise, you can wait up to a day or two to file a police report.


Note that if you are seriously injured and cannot move your car, it’s okay to skip step 2.

4) Collect important information 

If you’re safe and able to leave your car, your next step will be to speak to the other driver and collect information. This includes details like: 


  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Insurance information
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • License plates
  • Type, color, and model of vehicle

If there were any witnesses to the accident, it’s a good idea to take down their contact information, too so that they can support you later on in sharing what happened.

Note that while speaking to the other driver, you should be sure to never admit fault for the accident, as this can be used to hold you liable. 

5) Assess and document the damage

Next, you’ll want to assess what kind of damage has been done to your vehicle and any other cars involved. It’s incredibly important to document this damage with photographs, videos, and written notes. You can even sketch a diagram of the scene and/or record voice memos with the important details. While it may seem like you won’t forget anything, it’s actually quite easy to mix up details later on, so it’s very important to make detailed records at the scene. 

Make sure to document the following information:

  • Names and badge numbers for any police officers on the scene
  • A copy of the accident report or information about how you can obtain one later on
  • Photos of the damage done to both vehicles from multiple angles
  • Photos of skid marks if there are any 
  • Names and addresses for all involved parties, including passengers
  • Time and date of the crash
  • Driving conditions, lighting, and weather
  • Road quality
  • Which type of damage was done to the vehicles
  • Where the damage is
  • Any injuries to drivers, passengers, or pedestrians

5) Call your insurance company

Next, get in touch with your insurance agent. They may offer roadside assistance to help you tow your car if necessary. Don’t leave your vehicle unattended or leave the scene of the accident until you have collected all the necessary information listed above. Your insurer will share what your next steps will be in terms of filing a claim.

6) Contact a lawyer

The process of seeking compensation after a motor vehicle accident can be difficult to navigate, especially considering that insurance companies have an interest in paying you as little as possible. To protect your rights and increase your chances of receiving the highest possible payout, it’s a good idea to hire an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer who can walk you through the insurance claims and negotiation process and represent your interest. 

7) See a doctor 

If you were injured in the car accident, try to see a doctor as soon as you can. In addition to helping you care for and recover from your injuries, they will also be able to give you the necessary documentation that you will need to get compensated for your injuries. 

What not to do after a car accident

It’s important to know to take the above steps, but there are also some things that you should be careful not to do in the aftermath of a car accident. This includes:

  • Leaving the scene, which can result in criminal charges
  • As noted above, you should never admit fault for a car accident to the other driver
  • Get angry and heated with the other driver

Steps to take before a car accident

In order to make the process of responding to a car accident as safe and smooth as possible, there are a few ways you can prepare. 

  • Pack a safety kit including a first aid kit, flares, and reflective emergency triangles 
  • Keep important documents like your license, registration, and insurance policy in an easily accessible place
  • Take your phone or a working camera with you when you drive and keep it charged
  • Don’t keep loose items around your car

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