Accidents happen, and they’re always stressful and inconvenient. Even if you’re a safe driver, it makes sense to plan ahead and know how to respond, in case a fender bender or more serious collision occurs. Follow these steps to stay safe and help ensure a smooth, efficient resolution:
- Check for injuries and call an ambulance if needed.
- If safe, move the cars out of traffic.
- Call the police and request an accident report.
- Exchange information with the other driver.
- Get name, address, driver’s license number, and insurance provider. Document the scene. Take pictures. Sketch a diagram of the accident and record vehicle info (make, damage, license plate) for all vehicles involved. (Click the form below to download a printable accident report form to keep in your car.)
- Notify your insurance agent within 24 hours.
Reacting to a car accident: The do’s and don’ts
You’re probably feeling flustered and anxious. It goes without saying, but take a few breaths and try to stay calm. Here are a few extra do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Do: Turn on your hazards and use glow sticks or reflective warning triangles for safety.
- Do: Ask witnesses what they saw, and get their names and numbers, if possible. •
- Don’t: Move someone who’s injured unless absolutely necessary.
- Don’t: Sign anything unless it’s for a police officer or your insurance agent.
- Don’t: Leave the scene until you have approval from the investigating officer.
- Don’t: Talk to a representative from the other insurance company. Ask them to call your insurer to arrange an interview.
What to say instead of “I’m sorry” after an accident
Accidents can be frightening or unnerving situations. Your adrenaline is flowing and you may feel the impulse to apologize, even if the accident wasn’t your fault. Avoid the temptation. Keep calm and try not to place blame or accept it until the police arrive. At that point, give the officer an honest review of what happened. Here are a few phrases to use instead of that knee-jerk apology:
- Is everyone okay?
- Let’s call the police and start exchanging information.
- I know you’re upset. I’m upset too.
- I hear you. I understand you’re frustrated.
- Let’s just save the “what happened” until the police get here.
- Let’s just focus on everyone’s safety right now.
- I need some time to calm down before we discuss this. Let’s wait for the police.
If you’ve recently been in an accident, start here to report a claim.
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