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What are the first steps I should take after a car crash?

Car Crash

From simple fender benders to head-on collisions, car accidents can leave all parties confused about which steps to take next.

Review our questions and answers below on what to do following the car accident, how to handle medical and personal injury situations, what to do if you've suffered property damage, how to file insurance claims, and when you should hire an attorney.

There are several steps you should take immediately following a car accident:

  • Call an ambulance if anyone is injured.

  • If possible (and necessary), move your vehicle away from oncoming traffic to avoid any additional accidents.

  • Call the police to file an official police report, especially if any of the following are involved:

  • Significant property damage.

  • Serious bodily injury.

  • Death.

  • Obtain information from the other party and any witnesses and collect any evidence (see “What Kind of Evidence Should I Collect at the Accident Scene?" below).

Understand that these steps might vary (and even be postponed) depending on the specific circumstances involving your car accident. For example, if you and/or any other parties are seriously injured and need to visit the hospital immediately, gathering information and evidence will have to wait.

Also note that, unless you're seriously injured and must be transported to a hospital immediately, you must not leave the scene of the accident (often called a “hit-and-run") without handling the necessary steps related to your particular accident. Doing so can result in misdemeanor or felony charges, as well as hefty fines, all depending on your state laws.

What kind of evidence should I collect at the accident scene?

As you're gathering evidence, be sure to:

  • Exchange information with all other involved parties, including:

  • Names.

  • Contact information (addresses, telephone numbers, etc.).

  • Insurance information.

  • License plate numbers.

  • Each vehicle's make, model, year, and color.

  • Each vehicle's registration number.

  • Each driver's license number.

  • Get statements from any willing witnesses.

  • It's also a good idea to document their names and contact information, too.

  • Take photos of: