The first few moments after a motor vehicle accident can be extremely disorienting and frightening, even if you or others are not seriously injured in the crash.

The first thing to remember is to remain calm. Keeping a cool head can be a challenge until you know whether anyone is hurt but will help everyone in the aftermath.

Assess the damage thoroughly and accurately

Regardless of whether the accident is your fault, remain at the scene, especially if anyone is injured as leaving could result in serious charges against you. Next, take these steps:

  • Check for injuries: Make sure everyone is OK. If anyone is hurt, call 911 to get an ambulance and police to the scene as quickly as possible. Call the cops when significant property damage results, even if no one is hurt.
  • Exchange information: Get the names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers and insurance information from all parties involved. Likewise, get police officers’ names and badge numbers.
  • Don’t apologize or admit fault: Anything you say at the scene can be considered an admission of guilt, which could lead to charges against you and have potentially negative consequences for insurance coverage.
  • Talk to witnesses: If anyone saw the accident, such as a pedestrian or driver who wasn’t involved in the crash, get their contact information. Ask local residents if accidents frequently happen in this area.
  • Call your insurer: Inform your insurance company about the accident and stick to the facts about what happened and whether any injuries occurred. Giving them false or misleading information can get you into serious trouble.
  • Document the scene: Take pictures of the crash site from all angles as soon as possible. These will help your insurance company determine compensation and can help you in court if necessary.

Beware of quick settlement offers

Before accepting any offer from an insurer, make sure that any injuries have been treated and whether they will require ongoing care, which will keep pushing medical bills higher. Before accepting any offer, consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you receive a favorable outcome, whether it’s paying for medical bills and other expenses, or defending you in court if police believe you are at fault.