The first thing to do after a minor traffic accident is to stay calm and ascertain if there are any injuries. You’re expected to offer whatever assistance you can if someone is injured. Even if there aren’t injuries, it’s a good idea to call 911. An accident report may stop the other party from denying culpability, or shifting the blame. Do not apologize or explain your actions. This is called "admissions against interests," and it can be misconstrued or used against you later.
Make a report
If the police are too busy to respond, make a point of reporting the accident at a police station the next day. In any event, get the officer’s name and the service number of the report. If the accident is on corporate property, like a shopping mall parking lot, ask the security personnel to record the incident and give you the record number. The company can refuse to divulge the contents of the report, but you can subpoena that information if it’s really vital to your case.
Exchange insurance details
You should definitely swap insurance information. Write down the other driver’s name and address. You can ask to see his or her license to confirm the accuracy of the information. If the other driver asks to see your license, show it to him or her, but do not relinquish possession. It’s been known for people to purloin the license and try to use it as leverage. Write down the model and color of the car and, of course, its registration number.
Take some photos
Now that almost everyone has a camera on their phone, take pictures of the accident, and of any damage. If you see any strange evidence like bottles or cans, or drug paraphernalia, try to photograph that, too. Also bring it to the attention of the police, security personnel, or witnesses.
Get a witness
If any of the witnesses mentions anything that suggests the other party was in the wrong, ask them if you can get their names and contact information for your insurance company. You could record a brief statement from them, either in writing or on your phone. It all helps.
Tell your insurance provider
Notify your insurance company, and the insurance company of the other party, particularly if you’re sure the other party was to blame. You can file a claim at both companies, and make sure to get a claim number from both.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What to Do After a Minor Car Accident and was authored by Barry Winfield.