• May 24th 2010 at 12:00AM
  • 57
Flickr/merlinprincesse... Flickr/merlinprincesse

Tires squeal and you brace yourself for the inevitable sound of metal crunching. The actual accident is over in a few seconds, but what should you do afterwards? Here are 10 smart moves to make after you've been in a car accident.

1. Think safety first.
It's a given to think safety in a more serious crash, but the after affects of fender-benders can be dangerous too. While in many states, the law requires you to stop after a collision, it's important to pull out of any driving lanes, even if the traffic behind you is stopped. This is to avoid a secondary collision, as well as to not impede traffic flow.

If you are the front car in a collision, motion to the other driver and have him follow you to the closest spot where there's room for both of you to pull over safely. If you are parked in the breakdown lane, be sure to stay as far away from moving cars as possible as you exchange information and assess damage.

If you can't move your car out of traffic, stay in the car with your seat belt buckled and call 911. No matter where you are stopped, turn your hazard lights on or put out flares or an emergency triangle if it's safe to do so.

2. Check for injuries.
Even in a relatively minor collision, people can be hurt. First, look at yourself, in a mirror if possible. While your adrenaline will be flowing hard, stop and think about if any part of your body hurts or if you are dizzy, short of breath or have other symptoms of an injury. Once you decide you are okay, ask the others involved if they are hurt. If anyone is injured or even seems like they might be, call 911. Unless you have first aid training, don't move anyone who is injured unless they are at risk of further injuries because of their location.

3. Consider calling the police.

In many states, if no one is hurt, the cars involved are not blocking traffic and damage is under $1000, reporting the accident to the police is not required (New York and Massachusetts are two such places), but you may choose to make the call if you want a police report taken. If you think getting a report of the accident would be helpful in establishing fault or because you suspect fraud, then certainly make the call to request police assistance.

Sometimes, especially in cities where officers are busy responding to calls of injuries and lawbreakers, the police may not respond to this request for a minor accident. Even if they don't respond, you may be required to file a report yourself, if anyone is hurt or if the damage exceeds a certain amount. Check with your local police, Department of Motor Vehicles or insurance company to find out. Keep in mind though, that in many states, if a police report is filed, your insurance company will be notified of the accident, which could derail you if you have plans to keep the accident quiet, though not reporting it is illegal in many states.

4. Look for eyewitnesses.
Noting any eyewitnesses to the collision is a smart move, especially if there's any question of fault in the collision. Go to the eyewitnesses as quickly as possible to get the full name, street address and day and evening phone numbers for each witness. Even if no police report is taken, you can provide this info to your insurance company.

5. Make a plan if your car is being towed.
If the damage to your car is severe enough that it needs to be towed, take a few minutes to make a plan your next steps. Where do you want the car to be towed? Having it delivered to a dealer, mechanic or body shop you trust is ideal, even if you need to pay a bit because it's being towed further away. If you car is taken to the towing company's yard or other nearby location and you'll want it to go somewhere else later, you could end up paying for a second tow.

If your car is being towed, make sure to get all of your personal belongings out of it first. If these items are stolen, they won't be covered under your auto insurance, plus they may be things you need later.

6. Make notes.
In addition to the contact info of any eyewitnesses, take a moment to jot down the time of day as well as the street or highway where the collision occurred and the nearest cross-street or exit -- your insurance company will ask you for these details. It's also a good idea to note the road conditions, the weather, the speed limit sign, traffic signals and accident results, such as skid marks, since your insurance company may ask that information as well.

7. Take pictures.
If you have a camera, even in a cell-phone, take pictures of the damage (or lack of it) of all the cars involved, as well as any pictures that can help the insurance company understand how the accident occurred and possibly determine fault or fraud. If possible, photograph each car by standing at an angle from each wheel, so one side and either the front or rear of the car is visible in the frame. Take close-up pictures of any vehicle damage (from this accident or not) and, if appropriate, of any people involved. You might also want to photograph the items you took notes on.

8. Double check the other party's information.
Everyone knows to exchange information, but do so by writing down the info yourself by copying it from the person's driver's license and insurance card versus having them write it down for you. As you copy the info, ask if this is the person's current address and also compare the vehicle description, including the VIN, from the insurance card to the car itself. Make note of any discrepancies.

9. Call your insurance company.
Even in a fender bender with minimal damage, you are going to want to call your insurance company (and, in some states, you may be required to do so). Repair costs for even a new bumper and taillight can easily exceed a low deductible, and even seemingly minor damage to a car's exterior can reveal underlying damage once a body shop looks at the car more carefully. Be very cautious if you opt to try to handle the repair costs between the parties involved, check your state laws on this and decide in advance how to handle it if your car repair costs go up if they find more extensive damage once they have your car apart or if a person decides they are injured later.

10. Consider visiting a doctor.
Even if you are not seriously hurt, it may be wise to see a doctor within the day or so after the crash. Soreness and stiffness can be signs of a more serious injury and if they are, it should be diagnosed and treated promptly. While it's not right to take advantage of the system, it is appropriate to ensure that any medical issues that are a result of the accident are taken care of by the at-fault party. You don't want to wait until months later to discover the lingering problem you have is a result of the car accident.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      If you live in New Jersey and have only had a fender bender, with no injuries or summonses issued, then Number 9 may be bad idea. In 2002-2003, to get insurance companies to return to insuring drivers in NJ, former jerk**f Governor McGreevey sold his soul, and ours, to the devil. The entire set of system rules were gutted in favor of making profits for the state and insurers and against consumer protections so that it often pays for you to NOT report to anyone's insurance. Just pay for the damage out of pocket, if you can afford to. Why? The assigned risk pool rules, that's why. There are two different sets of point systems in NJ now. The DMV set, which issues points for moving violations and some non-moving violations and the insurance points system. The insurance points system has several new rules enabling insurers to screw you if you're unaware of them. 1. Insurers can now place five insurance points on your record and call it an "accident" anytime they pay you more than $800 on a claim for any incident you report which occurred while driving, even if you did not have an accident or even if one was not your fault. 2. DMV points come off your record at the rate of three per year you drive safely, but insurance points only come off at the rate of one per year. So, it takes five years for those five accident points to come off your license. And 3. The number of insurance points needed on your record for you to lose your coverage and be thrown into the assigned risk pool was lowered from nine to seven. That means that, if you get a common two point ticket for say, not having your seatbelt on - and maybe it's the first ticket you've ever gotten in your life - and in that same year report a fender bender, even if NO OTHER VEHICLE WAS INVOLVED - and maybe it's the first "accident" you've ever had - for which you are paid $1000 on your claim, then you'll have seven insurance points on your record and will very likely be labeled a "risk" and lose your lower cost coverage. The first year premiums and surcharges in the assigned risk pool are nearly $5000/year, and drop by about $1000/year for the next four years. That means, if you were paying $1500/year for a safe driver policy, and had the year described above, that fender bender claim will actually cost you about $7000 more out of pocket over the next five years. Better to pay the $1000 out of pocket and keep your record and insurance policy clean. It's really only there now to protect you and others for serious accidents and/or injuries.
      • 8 Months Ago
      whats with all the **********???????
      KEERANG !!!!!
      • 8 Months Ago
      I usually keep muttering " No hablo Ingles , no hablo ingles" and pretend to go after my cars' registration 'papers" via the passenger side door , and while no one is looking, slip out the driver side door leaving my unregistered, non-insured hand me down vehicle with no documentation behind..........it works every time!
      • 8 Months Ago
      Have been an insurance agent for almost 49 years..... this articler is an example of the BS written by the now "journalists" who have a forum and should be given an enema.... the author is full of pure crap....
      • 8 Months Ago
      I just went through this. My wifes car ******* in front of our house, 5:30 am. we were in bed. I did all the things you have mentioned. I finally got the police report after six days. Then I dealt with the insurance. I was under the impression the I was to be made whole. Well to find out the insurance company thought different. The parts that they O.K. are after market parts. My car is only three years old. Not toyota parts. one of the rims was torn up pretty good, do you think I am getting a new rim, not on you life.Salvageyard then refirbish. Nice huh. So this is how they save money, while charging us top dollar. I have been with this company for atleast 25 years, never had a claim. we were not in the car. But that doesn't matter. i have never heard of this before. Since this accidentI have done some research and found out that this is standard practice among insurance companies. What a great way to save money for the company, screw the people that are paying for a service. It is a law that tyou have to have insurance, but I don't think it is a law that you have to get ******.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Dont care what happens, call police, try to put this real short, going to work one morning came to a 4 way stop intersection, (no stop light) so you take your chances. Women in front of me decided to take off so I went to pull up where she was she decides to stop, I barely hit the back of her bumper, get out no biggie I have a half inch scratch on my front bumper thats all she gets out said no damage but I said well just in case we will exchange insurance names and our names were exchange and she left and I went on to work, also remember I have a brand new mitsbitshi eclipse, small car, she had a big car which I ended up going to where she worked and took pics of her car and it was dented, rusted out all over, not exagerating. but didnt go until she called me the next day stating her husband took car to the garage and said her car frame on her car was bent, next day she called and said she spent the night in emergency room she is wearing a neck and back brace. Overall trying to make this short my insurance company dished out to this women over 500,000 dollars and I lost my insurance over this cause there are too many people out there waiting for something like this to happen so they can get rich quick, but the last time I heard from her she was sueing me for a million on her own. so CALL THE LAW dont care how small or big the accident is
      • 8 Months Ago
      well the cars in the picture do not nor never will qualify for a fender bender if you have been sipping a few beers on your travels get rid of them STAT. definitly call the cops if you were rearended if for no other reason they usually take pictures of the scene. if you think you are hurt (especially whip lash ) ask to be taken to the ER though you feel pretty ok , in a couple of hours you will feel every muscle in your body scream out with pain if your car must be towed it will be towed to the repair shop in the town the accident occured make arrangements to have it towed from there to a place in your town. your insurance will handle most of the paperwork for you, which will save you time to lick your wounds
      • 8 Months Ago
      I live in Michigan - a state that has NO-FAULT insurance. My car was rear-ended by a suv on a service drive while I had stopped for on-coming traffic from the expressway. Because I drive an older car, I only have full liability coverage with a major insurance company. Until this accident, I didn't really understand the full meaning of no-fault. So even though the other driver is at fault, We each have to go through our own insurance companies. I don't have collision insurance so I don't have coverage even if the other person is at fault. Michigan law will only make the other driver's insurance company pay up to a maximum of $500.00 for damage to my car under these *************. If the car had been parked, his insurance company would have to pay for everything including a loaner vehicle. I'm now finding out that even if I had the collision coverage, my own insurance co would still have to pay the claim less my deductible and only up to the blue book value of my car. In this case, the damage exceeds the value of my car so I would have had to pay them to get my "totaled" car back. The extra premiums I would have to pay for full coverage, the deductible and compensation up to blue-book value doesn't make it worth it to pay for collision coverage. Seems like it's best not to drive an older car in a no-fault state. Anyone else have no-fault experience?
      • 8 Months Ago
      i witnessed an accident just the other day myself and both sets of drivers looked traumatised so I guess it'd be difficult to have your wits about you in that situation to deal with all the stuff you mentioned above. good advice nonetheless www.incarworld.com
      • 8 Months Ago
      Here is another very important tip...if the accident truly is not your fault, but the other driver is related to, is, or has a friend that is a cop, the cop on the scene will write out the report as if you are at ************* for PBA cards being passed around when you are not paying attention. Believe it, this has happened to me. And if the driver of the car that hits you is a drunken cop or spouse of a cop, they will get off the hook if no physical injury occured. Just beware of your situation, take pictures with your camera...protect yourself!!!
      • 8 Months Ago
      When I was rear ended by another driver, I was upset because the driver did not slow down as I was attempting to make a complete stop at the stop sign in the neighborhood. Not to mention sustaining a rear bumper damage where the rear bumper of my parent's Subaru was partially dislodged from the impact. I requested police assistance, because, it was already night time, and the woman who hit me was agitated, and I could not call the insurance company to report the damage inflicted by her car. I had the police report filed, and the woman's insurance company would pay for the damage inflicted to my parent's car because she was at fault. The police helped me move the car out of the way, and after everything was taken care of, I drove the car, to the nearest gas station, called the towing company and had the car towed away. Sometime, a police respond is requested for personal safety's sake.
      • 8 Months Ago
      stop honking...I am trying to talk on the phone!! hahaha
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X