I once heard getting into a car accident compared to standing in the shower and suddenly realizing that you’re on one of those waterslides where the floor drops out from underneath you. While I cannot validate the validity of that comparison (I’ve never been in a car accident OR on one of those waterslides), I do know that the situation can be jarring, confusing, and disorienting – regardless of how the accident occurred.
It’s important to feel prepared and in control, so here are our tips to handle an accident if it ever happens to you.
How to Handle an Accident
- Keep cool and quickly take stock of the situation. Are you injured? Is everyone else in the car okay? If so, move to a safe location to prevent further damage. If it’s not possible to move your car, turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers of your position.
- Make sure your car is fully stopped (in park or with the emergency brake on, if you drive a manual transmission) before getting out of the vehicle. For your safety, check the mirrors to be sure that it’s safe to get out; if you carry items such as road flares or beacons, take them out and set them up as an extra precautionary measure.
- Check for injuries on both yourself and others involved. Were there passengers? Pedestrians or cyclists? Other drivers? If there is a chance that someone is seriously injured, call an ambulance right away. Also, when in doubt, alert the police of the incident – even if the accident was a minor fender bender. The police can be an invaluable resource in determining fault (if any). Let them be the objective judge to determine who is at fault for the collision. As an added tip, be polite, but do not tell anyone that you think the accident was your fault (even if you’re pretty sure that it was). Even saying “I’m sorry” can be construed as an admission of guilt in some circumstances.
- Gather the below information from all parties involved in the accident:
- 1. Driver and passenger names (it might also be a good idea to get an email address and a photo of the driver, if you can)
2. Insurance information from all parties involved in the collision
3. License plate numbers
4. Makes and models of all vehicles involved
5. Contact information for any eyewitnesses
6. Location of the accident
7. The name and badge number of any responding police officers
Be very careful about the information you give out to the other parties. Never give out your social security number, and never sign a document unless it’s for the police or your insurance company.
- Take photos and videos to document the scene. I remember back in the day before smartphones, it was recommended that you carry a disposable camera in the glovebox. Now we can just take all the pictures and videos with our phone! If your phone was damaged or lost in the crash, ask a bystander to take some photos and videos and email them to you. Note any skid marks, signs, lights, lane markings, road construction, line of sight – the more the better when it comes time to file that claim with your insurance company.
- Try to get a police report. Getting this information will make it much easier to file a claim with your insurance company. The officer’s opinion of the accident will be useful if you and the other driver(s) happen to have a dispute about who was to blame for the accident. The police report will also have the officer’s information on it in case the officer is needed to testify in court. Also, don’t ever leave the scene before an officer arrives. Leaving the scene before exchanging information and reporting it to law enforcement is considered a misdemeanor offense in some jurisdictions.
- Go to the doctor right away. Even if you feel fine, injuries from car accidents can rear their ugly heads well after the fact. In the moment, adrenaline can mask symptoms of an injury, so it’s best to get checked out by your doctor right away or as soon as you can after the accident. One of the most common injuries is whiplash, which can take up to 24 hours to appear. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the biggest warning signs:
1. Neck pain and stiffness
2. Worsening of pain with neck movement
3. Loss of range of motion in the neck
4. Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
5. Tenderness or pain in shoulder, upper back or arms
6. Tingling or numbness in the arms
Get yourself checked out by a doctor as soon as your start to experience any combination of these symptoms after your accident. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially with injuries that involve the spinal cord and neck.
- File a claim with your insurance company. With Metromile, it’s easy to file a claim and submit photos right through your phone! Be sure to include any and all information you received, including photos and a police report if you’re able to obtain it.
1. Keep cool and make sure your car is fully stopped before getting out.
2. Check if anyone in either car needs medical attention. If there are injuries, call 911 immediately. Move your car out of the flow of traffic if you can.
3. Report the accident to local authorities/police.
4. While awaiting police, do not admit guilt or say anything that could be construed as admission of guilt, such as “I’m so sorry.”
5. Take photos and videos of both cars, the driver, skid marks, signs, lights, lane markings, road construction, line of sight, etc.
6. Get a police report.
7. Go to the doctor right away.
8. File a claim with your insurance company.
With the right preparation, accident day (and the horrible stressful feeling that comes with it) should only last for a second, and Metromile is here to help you through the process. If you are a pay-per-mile insurance customer and are in an accident, you can reach the Metromile claims team 24/7 at 888-215-9176. Whether you need help locating repair facilities or need an update on work being done, we can get you the information you need. We’ll do everything we can to get you back on the road as quickly and safely as possible! If you’re not already a Metromile customer, be sure to get a quick quote now!
Julianne Cronin is a Bay Area freelance writer, content creator, and founder/editor of the women’s lifestyle site, The Wink. You can find her working on her capsule wardrobe, collecting cacti, and trying out the latest beauty products on Instagram