An auto accident is an event you can never prepare enough for, yet for most people, driving on the roads is one of the riskiest things they ever do in their lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost 34000 people were killed in more than 5.8 million crashes in 2009* (*estimated data).
Here’s a list of what to do after an auto accident to make the situation for yourself and others around you easier.

Assess the situation- Though it’s natural to panic, get angry, feel guilty or get into a state of shock right after an auto accident, try to remain as calm as possible by taking deep breaths. If your car is blocking the road, move it to a side (in some states moving a vehicle from the scene of accident might be illegal till investigations are over, so it’s good to read up your state law over this); if you or your passengers are stranded in the car, switch on your hazard lights and call 911 right away.

Give ‘medical attention’ a priority- Find out the extent of injuries to you and the other driver. Check the passengers in your car to see if anybody needs immediate medical attention. If they do, call an ambulance at once. Life and health are more important than damage to the car.

Investigate damage to car/ property – Alert other drivers on the road by placing orange cones or other emergency signs around the scene of the accident. Check for preliminary damage to the vehicles involved in the accident. Though there might be hidden damages which will reveal themselves over time, the initial damage will give you an idea whether a claims process from either side will be necessary or not.

Do not assign blame at this stage- You might be tempted to assign fault or plead guilty right after an auto accident, but its best to keep quiet and let the police investigate the matter. If you need to speak, do so only with the police officers. There are high chances though, that police might not interfere if both the drivers are able to drive away in their own cars after the auto accident. If that happens, ensure that you go to the police station to file a vehicle incident report right after the auto accident.

Record as much of the accident scene as you can– take photographs, make notes, draw diagrams, record eye-witness statements and jot down the date, time and weather conditions at the time of the accident. You might need to file a claim or fight one at a later date, so your records will prove really handy to the police and your auto insurance company at the time.

Exchange your name, address and license number and insurance details with the other driver- This is something that necessarily should be done right after an auto accident so that you don’t end up with a big medical/ auto-shop bill that needs to be claimed and a missing at fault party.

Notify your insurance- Notify your auto insurance carrier right away. Remember, the sooner you report the incident to the authorities after the auto accident, the lesser are the chances of facts being distorted at a later date.

Use the assistance of your insurance company - Towing your vehicle away from the scene, renting a substitute vehicle till yours gets repaired, or helping out with a list of certified workshops that can conduct repairs to your car; use your auto insurance company to help you out as you might be too shocked after the auto accident to work out these things.

Start the claims processes –Make sure you know what’s included in your policy and what isn’t. Are the damages big enough to pay up your deductible and still benefit from the claim amount? Get your own estimate of the physical damage to the vehicle, collect medical bills and once you are satisfied you have an accurate claim figure, file a claim. Do not be in a hurry to accept the first offer an auto insurance company makes to you after an auto accident. If you take up one too quickly, you might end up with pending bills that need to be settled out of pocket.

Preemptive measures- Keep your medical information, your insurance details, a first aid kit, orange cones or other distress signals, and a long rope in the trunk of your car handy. It’s always a good idea to keep a good auto insurance coverage on your policy. High liability amounts, collision, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages, all make your life easier in case you get into an auto accident.

In the US alone there are close to six million auto accidents every year. While you might be a great driver, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for any eventuality. There are high chances that the suddenness of a crash might leave you feeling dazed and confused about what to do after an auto accident so make a copy of this list and keep it in a safe place in your car for ready reference. Hope you never need to use it though!

Author's Bio: 

Christoper Smith is a retired personal finance consultant, interested in adventure living. He loves to explore new places, people and cultures with his wife. He writes regularly during his travels; mostly on the road, from his trailer. His interest lies in the fields of finance and insurance [home, life and auto insurance - his favorite subjects from the past.