When you get in a car accident, there are certain steps you should take to ensure safety, to follow the law, and to get the insurance claim process started. Below is a step-by-step guide to what to do after a car accident.
1. Check yourself for injuries – if you are injured, call 911 or ask someone else to do so. If you are seriously injured, try not to move, and wait for emergency personnel.
2. Check on your passengers – If you are not too hurt to move, check on the other passengers in the car. If anyone is injured, get on the phone with emergency services or ask someone to do so.
3. Get to safety – If you can, get to the side of the road or sidewalk.
4. Call 911 – Whether the accident is considered a minor fender-bender or a major collision, calling the police is important. The responding officers will fill out an accident report and document the scene. Note – In NY, vehicle collisions resulting in only property damage are not required to be reported to the police. You are only responsible for exchanging your driver’s license information, insurance information, and vehicle registration with all other motorists.
5. Wait for help – Turn off your engine, turn your hazard lights on and use road flares (if available) to warn other vehicles to slow down.
6. Exchange Information – Even though all that is required to be exchanged is your driver’s license information, insurance information, and vehicle registration information a more comprehensive list includes:
a) Full name and contact information
b) Insurance company and policy number
c) Driver’s license and license plate number
d) Type color and model of vehicles involved
e) Location of accident
*It is recommended to avoid discussing fault when going over facts with the other driver. When you file an insurance claim, the adjuster reviewing your claim will determine who is at fault based on an inspection of the vehicles/property damaged, information provided by you and the other parties involved in the accident and any supporting documentation, like the police report or photographs from the scene.
7. Document the accident – Identify the officers; get a copy of the accident report for your records and because your insurer may ask for a copy of the report when you file a claim; take pictures; document the accident thoroughly; take down names and talk to witnesses (if any).
8. Notify your insurer and start the claims process– It is never too soon to start the process.
It should also be noted that leaving the scene of a collision before exchanging your information with other motorists is illegal under the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. Furthermore, you are required to remain on the scene and contact the police immediately after a vehicle collision when 1) any person is injured or killed; 2) a domestic animal is injured or killed; or 3) a parked vehicle, or any other property is damaged, and the owner cannot be located.
Leaving the scene of an accident is a three-point violation if convicted.