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Your actions after a car crash matter

Over two million people were injured in vehicle crashes in almost 7.3 million traffic accidents in 2016. Knowing what you should do after car accidents can help protect your safety and  ability to file a lawsuit.

Even a relatively minor fender bender can cause confusion, embarrassment, and disbelief. Keeping a checklist in your glove box or console, with your proof of insurance and emergency contact information, may be helpful after a crash.

After the accident

Your immediate steps are related to your safety and assuring that help is summoned for anyone who is injured. You should move your vehicle, if you can, to a safe area immediately after the crash. Determine whether you or your passengers suffered any injuries. Also assure that no one else involved in the accident needs medical attention.

Provide any needed first aid. If anyone needs medical care, call 9-1-1. Call the police and report the accident and its location.

Information

After assuring everyone is safe or being treated, you need to collect as much information as possible. Obtain the name, phone number, insurance and license plate numbers of other drivers and passengers. Get contact information of any witnesses.

Obtain the name, badge number and telephone number of any police officer you talk to or who comes to the crash. Ask for a copy of their accident report or the procedures for getting the report.

Your can use your phone to photograph or take video of all vehicles in the crash, the accident location, and any damaged property.

Stay calm

You must be careful about what you say and your behavior after the accident, despite your stress or the behavior of others, because of a lawsuit. Stay calm. Do not raise your voice or argue with anyone involved in the accident or the police.

Never apologize even though it is appropriate to assure that everyone is uninjured. Do not claim that you caused the accident, admit any fault, or say that your insurance will pay for any damages.

Why it matters

Over one in five motorists had to go to the hospital after they were involved in an accident, according to the AAA Foundation. Even more drivers were likely involved in minor crashes that just caused property damage. Car accidents cost $18 billion in lifetime medical costs in 2012, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Accident also occurred with the most routine driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Thirty-six percent of crashes occurred when turning at an intersection, 22 percent involved running off the road, 12 percent took place while stopped in traffic, 11 percent involved crossing into another lane and nine percent occurred when a driver lost control.

Do not speak to another motorist’s insurance claim adjuster without first obtaining legal advice. An attorney can also help gather evidence concerning another negligent or reckless driver and seek compensation in a lawsuit.