Car accidents are bound to happen in a country where there are two hundred million registered drivers out on the road for a collective total of seventy billion hours every year. Depending on your age, gender, and the time of day you choose to drive, your likelihood of getting into a crash may be very high. Younger drivers are most at risk for getting into car accidents, especially teens who engage in risky driving behaviors, like cell phone use while at the wheel.
Regardless of the level of experience you have as a driver, anyone who drives is at risk of being part of a minor car accident. This could mean a fender bender with another car, or it could mean a solo crash where the only damage is to property. Even these small events can lead to car accident injuries and other problems. In the case of a minor car accident, be sure to take the following steps to protect yourself.
Make Sure Nobody Is Hurt
This may feel obvious, but it is also easy to ignore in the cases of relatively small accidents. The most common form of injury sustained during car accidents are cuts and bruises, but even whiplash is possible even when there is fairly little force applied. In fact, minor car accidents have the ability to create enough force to give you whiplash of a similar severity you might experience during a major rear-end collision.
Any obvious injury requires medical attention. This can look like administering First Aid for minor injuries, or it may mean calling emergency services to help with more significant injuries. Additionally, not all injuries are immediately apparent. Some injuries may not reveal themselves for hours or even days after the collision. Be sure to monitor your own health during this time.
Take Inventory of the Vehicle
Even if there is no visible damage to the vehicle or vehicles involved, you should still take photos or video immediately after the accident occurs. This information helps determine fault and ensures that insurance is correctly applied. It is also a good idea to take environmental pictures, such as of the road around the vehicle or the weather conditions. Take pictures from several different angles as well, or you can take a video as you walk around the entire scene.
Move Vehicle(s) to Safety
Assuming any vehicle involved is still operable, you should move them from the road to a shoulder or some other out-of-the-way area. Doing this ensures that traffic can continue moving and will prevent further damage from occurring, such as the risk of incurring injury from a passing car.
File an Accident Report
The next step is to call your local law enforcement to speak to law enforcement. Many insurance agencies ask for an accident report to help them determine fault, and some will not cover damages in cases where no accident report has been filed. Because a minor accident is most likely not an emergency situation, be sure to dial the number for non-emergency services. Many police departments have separate numbers for such situations posted on their websites. When you speak to the dispatcher, let them know the circumstances of your collision and whether anyone has been injured. Sometimes, another person involved in the accident may ask to keep the accident off the record or offer cash or some other form of payment to “look the other way,” but that could prove harmful if you should develop further injury or damage to your car.
Do Not Admit Fault
When involved in an accident, it is important to avoid admitting or accepting fault or blame for the accident. That includes writing a statement of fault, but it also includes a verbal apology. It can be hard for some people to do this, especially for those who are naturally more empathetic, so be careful with the language you use to talk to the other person involved. Be sure to remain polite and courteous. Even if you do think the accident was due to a mistake you made, or you feel otherwise responsible, it is important to let the authorities make the decision on how the events unfolded.
If the minor accident involves another vehicle, and after you have moved the vehicles to a safer area off the roadway, trade information with the other driver or drivers. This exchange should be courteous and professional and should include an exchange of insurance information as well as contact information such as a first and last name and phone number. If there are other passengers, you may want to get their information as well, in case there is a later need for witness statements or some other information that they can provide to your insurance company.
Remain at the Scene
Leaving before authorities arrive could negate your claim to any coverage – and furthermore, fleeing the scene where an accident has occurred is actually a crime. By fleeing the scene, you appear guilty. Furthermore, the incident will then be considered a hit and run, which could have significant consequences, including heavy fines and suspension of your driver’s license. This is even more problematic should you have any previous offenses connected to your license. It is possible that a law enforcement officer may determine that the accident was a hit and run even if the accident only involved another object, such as crashing into a mailbox. For this reason, you should not leave the scene of the accident, no matter how minor it appears, unless you need to go to the hospital to treat an injury.
Contact Your Insurance Agency
Finally, you should contact your insurance agency to begin the process of filing a claim. The insurance company will require as much detail as possible, any contact information you have collected, and information about the agency that filed an accident report. The insurance agency will most likely follow up with you at least once, if not more often, as it works to determine the fault of the accident and how coverage will be provided for any damages.
Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment
You should visit a car accident chiropractor even if don’t feel pain or suspect no injuries after you get in a wreck. Delayed injuries and pain are common even in minor accidents, and you want to ensure you are taking care of yourself as well as possible.