No matter who’s at fault or how fast you’re going, being in a car accident is never a great experience. The toughest part often comes after the collision: collecting your thoughts, checking for injuries, talking with the police, dealing with your damaged car and contacting your insurance company. Here are a few helpful tips to ensure your post-crash experience goes smoothly.
Your first reaction should be to stay calm and try not to panic. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but panicking will only make things more complicated; being calm will allow you to quickly survey the damage.
Before attempting to get out of the car, make sure you’re not in any pain. If you are, consider waiting in your vehicle for first responders to arrive. Emergency personnel know how to move you without causing further injuries. Check on your passengers and anyone else involved in the accident if you are able.
Next, survey damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles or property involved in the accident. Although it’s a rare circumstance, your car may be at risk of catching fire, so check if it’s leaking fluids or smoking heavily.
Even if it’s a minor accident, turn off your vehicle. A live, damaged engine can cause problems — especially when there are leaking fluids and misaligned parts.
You may want to get any valuables out of the vehicle before it’s towed away. No items are worth risking your life for, so if your car is making unusual noises or smoking, do not approach it until the professionals arrive.
Avoid broken glass or sharp, protruding parts. Keep in mind that you may not be able to close or open windows or doors, depending on the severity and angle of the crash.
If the accident takes place at night or during a storm, activate your emergency hazard lights or put down road flares if they are safely accessible. If the hazard lights aren’t working or you can’t reach the road flares, be sure to stand as far away from the accident as possible in case another vehicle hits your car.
If the accident is minor, you may be able to drive your car home or to a body shop where you can get it fixed. If you have any concerns at all about your car’s condition, you should call a tow truck. Otherwise, you could find yourself stranded on the side of the road later.
Call the Police
Although some minor accidents can be handled without the police, most collisions require their involvement. The police will write up an incident report, which will be an important document when it’s time to call your insurance company. Provide the police officer with a simple, clear explanation of what happened, but don’t admit fault at the scene — that’s for the insurance company and police to decide.
Can Your Car Be Fixed?
Eventually, the time will come to take your car to a competent body shop, who will determine whether or not it can be fixed. If your car can’t be fixed, it’s said to be a total loss, more commonly referred to as “totaled.” In this case, your insurance company will write you a check for what your car is worth, and you’ll need to find a new one.
Getting in a car accident is almost always an unpleasant process, but following these tips will help your post-collision experience go as smoothly as possible.
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