What Should I do After a Motor Vehicle Accident?

Tiffany Manley

A motor vehicle accident is not an experience many people wish to ever have to endure, but the reality is that it does occur. Knowing the correct procedures to follow after a motor vehicle accident might help you avoid further injuries, excessive monetary expenses and other complications that might arise. There are many steps you can take in advance to know what you should do in the event of a motor vehicle accident. Keeping an accident emergency kit in your glove compartment and knowing what your insurance covers are good ways to prepare for the possibility of an accident. Moving to the side of the road in the case of a minor fender-bender, exchanging information with the other driver or drivers involved, taking pictures and making notes about the accident, filing an accident report and filing a claim quickly are all ways to react to an accident.

A car that's been in an accident.
A car that's been in an accident.

Preparing as much as you can before an accident ever occurs might help the situation immensely. Many websites have accident information forms available for free, and you can put them in your glove compartment in case you have an accident. These forms help you keep a clear mind and document all of the necessary information. You might also decide to keep a disposable camera, pen or pencil, cell phone and a list of any important medical information. All of these items can make up your accident emergency kit, which will be readily available for you when you need it.

A first aid kit, kept in a car's glove compartment, can be a lifesaver in the event of motor vehicle accident.
A first aid kit, kept in a car's glove compartment, can be a lifesaver in the event of motor vehicle accident.

Minor accidents do require attention, but if at all possible, you should move your vehicle to the side of the road so that the flow of traffic can be restored. Not only does it show consideration for your fellow drivers, it helps protect you from possible injury by passing cars. It also allows emergency personnel a way to get to the scene of the accident.

Always exchange information with the other driver or drivers involved in the accident. Be sure to obtain the driver’s license number, name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number and license plate number of each driver. You might need this information days or weeks after the accident, so be sure to keep it in a safe place.

Take pictures of and make notes about the motor vehicle accident. Mere words might be disputed, but pictures show proof of damage. Also note any information that might be pertinent to the accident. If in question, jot it down; you might need this information later.

You should also file an accident report with the police. Verify the information contained in the report, and make sure that your side of the story is conveyed in the report. Also, make sure you obtain a copy of the report.

Contacting your insurance company in a timely manner after a motor vehicle accident will help ensure processing of your claim in an efficient and correct manner. Make it a habit to review your insurance coverage periodically so that you know what coverage you have. If any issues arise, you will be more aware of what is covered and what is not as well as how to proceed with a claim.

Try to take pictures and notes of the damage done to the vehicles involved in an accident.
Try to take pictures and notes of the damage done to the vehicles involved in an accident.

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Discussion Comments


I was in a car accident with an injury, and one thing I learned was to stay on the scene until you've been been cleared to leave. When I tried to walk over to a pay phone to call my wife, several people reminded me that I couldn't leave the scene of an accident. If you need to contact someone during a motor vehicle accident, you may want to ask other people to make the call for you.


One piece of advice I'd offer is to spend time getting your story straight before the investigating police officer arrives. When I got into a car accident at a downtown intersection, I was convinced the other driver ran through a red light. I didn't slow down because I knew my light was green, but at the last minute I saw the other car coming in from the left and we collided. I had no time to hit the brakes.

Because my air bag deployed, I was disoriented for a few minutes. When the police officer arrived to get my statement, I didn't have my version of the incident straight in my mind. He asked me what color the light was, and I said "I don't know". I meant to say green or yellow, but at the time I wasn't 100% certain. The other driver said his light was definitely green, although I knew it wasn't. Because he gave a definite, if wrong, answer and I said I wasn't sure, the police officer assigned fault to my vehicle in the car accident report.

Be sure to provide details about the accident as definitively as possible. Even if both sides say the light was green, the investigator will use other factors to determine fault.

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