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From simple fender benders to head-on collisions, car accidents can leave all parties confused about which steps to take next.

Review our questions and answers below on what to do following the car accident, how to handle medical and personal injury situations, what to do if you’ve suffered property damage, how to file insurance claims, and when you should hire an attorney.

What are the first steps I should take after a car crash?

There are several steps you should take immediately following a car accident:

Call an ambulance if anyone is injured.
If possible (and necessary), move your vehicle away from oncoming traffic to avoid any additional accidents.
Call the police to file an official police report, especially if any of the following are involved:
Significant property damage.
Serious bodily injury.
Death.
Obtain information from the other party and any witnesses and collect any evidence (see “What Kind of Evidence Should I Collect at the Accident Scene?” below).

Understand that these steps might vary (and even be postponed) depending on the specific circumstances involving your car accident. For example, if you and/or any other parties are seriously injured and need to visit the hospital immediately, gathering information and evidence will have to wait.

Also note that, unless you’re seriously injured and must be transported to a hospital immediately, you must not leave the scene of the accident (often called a “hit-and-run”) without handling the necessary steps related to your particular accident. Doing so can result in misdemeanor or felony charges, as well as hefty fines, all depending on your state laws.

What kind of evidence should I collect at the accident scene?

As you’re gathering evidence, be sure to:

Exchange information with all other involved parties, including:
Names.
Contact information (addresses, telephone numbers, etc.).
Insurance information.
License plate numbers.
Each vehicle’s make, model, year, and color.
Each vehicle’s registration number.
Each driver’s license number.
Get statements from any willing witnesses.
It’s also a good idea to document their names and contact information, too.
Take photos of:
All vehicle damage.
All physical injuries.
Any evidence that shows road and/or weather conditions.

Be aware that it’s crucial to gather this information as quickly as possible. For example, physical wounds begin to heal over time and taking a picture minutes after the accident—as opposed to a week later—will better help show the severity of the injury.

Should I call the police after an accident?

Call the police if there’s:

Significant property damage.
Serious bodily injury.
Death.

These are the most important scenarios during which you’ll need police assistance.

Why is It important to get a copy of the police report?

Simply put, the police report is official documentation of circumstances surrounding the accident.

Aside from the same kinds of evidence you gathered at the accident scene, police reports also generally include the officer’s own narrative of details and causes related to the accident and sometimes even diagrams of the accident scene and impact point.

Suffice it to say, these types of details go a long way when it comes to:

Filing your car insurance claim (particularly, a personal injury or property damage claim).
How the claims adjuster moves forward.
How the insurance companies determine fault.

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