Nine steps to take after a car accident

It’s important to understand the necessary steps to take after an accident to ensure everyone is safe and which precautions to take to minimize complications down the line.

Read on to learn what steps to take after a car accident.

Step 1: Check yourself and passengers for injuriesTheZebra-Unlimited-Medical.width-200.png


Before springing into action and assessing the damage to your vehicle, the most important first step you can take is to make sure that you and your passengers are physically unharmed. If anyone is injured, call 911 right away. If someone has sustained serious injuries, do not move them until emergency personnel arrive. 


Step 2: Get to a safe place

If your vehicle is driveable and is in the way at its current location, moving your car to the side of the road is your next step. Put your hazard lights on while operating the vehicle and while it sits on the side of the road. If it is not moveable, leave the car where it is and get yourself to safety.


Step 3: Call 911



No matter the severity of the accident, calling 911 and filing an accident report is essential. Many insurance companies will ask for a copy of the police report during the claims process, as a recent, factual and accurate account of the accident serves as supporting documentation when assessing fault and processing your auto insurance claim.




Step 4: Exchange information 

If the incident involves multiple vehicles, exchange contact and insurance information with all other parties. Gather and share the following information:icon-id-cards

  • Full name
  • Contact information, including phone numbers, email addresses and other details. 
  • Insurance company and policy number
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number
  • Make, model and color of vehicle
  • Location of accident
  • Officer’s name and badge number
  • Witness contact information
Tip: Avoid discussing fault with the other driver
Zebra Tip: Avoid discussing fault with the other driver

Insurance companies will determine fault once they have all the facts, including an inspection, documentation, reports and photographs. It is important to avoid discussing responsibility, placing blame, or admitting fault. 


Step 5: Document the accidentIcon-Accident

When police officers arrive, fill out the accident report in as much detail as possible. Ask the officer where you can get a copy of this report. Gather the responding officer’s name and badge number. Pictures are also an important part of claims processing, so take photos of both vehicles with your cell phone to present to your insurance company. Talk to witnesses if there are any and gather contact information from them if they are comfortable. 


Step 6: File a claim

You can file your insurance claim right from the scene of the accident from your insurance company’s website, mobile app, or by calling customer service. Beginning the claims process right away means the steps necessary to close the claim are already in motion; with details fresh in your mind, police on the scene and the technologies available from mobile apps, contacting your insurance company right away can speed up the claims process.


Step 7: Use roadside assistance 

If your vehicle is not able to be driven after the accident, use roadside assistance through whatever provider you have. You may have the car transported to the auto body shop of your choice. 


Step 8: Make your inspection appointment


Wreck_iconOnce you’ve filed your claim, your insurance company will want to send out a claims adjuster to inspect your vehicle and assess the damage. If your car isn’t safe to drive, the insurance adjuster will come to you.




Step 9: Vehicle repairs and follow-up

After the inspection, you may have your vehicle repaired at the shop of your choice. If you have rental reimbursement on your car insurance coverage, you can use a rental car until your personal car is repaired and ready to be driven again. Stay in contact with your mechanic and insurance agent by tracking the claims process online and receiving regular updates on the status of the repairs from the auto body shop.

How to handle insurance after a car accident

Once all of these steps are completed, your insurer will inform you of their decision and how this auto accident affects your insurance policy and premiums going forward. Your provider will be in touch with the other party’s provider if the accident involved another vehicle or medical treatments.

While it's possible that a collision can happen anytime, it doesn't hurt to be prepared for such an event. Keeping these steps in mind will streamline the insurance claims process, ensure that the proper measures are taken at the scene, and help you stay calm during this otherwise stressful event.

How to stay prepared for accidents

You never know when a collision might occur, so it's important to keep all of your important information and safety items in your car at all times.

  • Safety kit: this might include a flashlight, tow rope, first aid kit and winter preparedness items. 
  • ID cards
  • Vehicle registration
  • Emergency contact information
  • Health insurance cards
  • Paper and pen for recording details

Protect your car with the right insurance coverage at the best value.

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Should I file a liability claim if I caused $650 in damage to the other car?

We have a handy guide on how to determine whether or not to file a claim. For that amount of damage, it's probably wise to forgo the claim and pay for the damage out-of-pocket.
Jan 21, 2020 Alexandria, MN

The person I hit wants me to pay out of pocket for damage

There's a couple of things to think about here. Let's break it down below:   First, most insurance companies require you to report all accidents, even when a claim is not filed.
Jul 27, 2018 Riverview, FL

Is my son covered if he got into an accident before being added to our policy?

Sorry to hear about your situation. It's hard to say if your insurance company is wrong to deny the claim without knowing your specific policy details.
Jan 20, 2020 Medway, MA

Filing a claim 24 days into a car insurance policy

Most companies will cancel your policy if you file a claim within the first 30 days of the policy. The reason is exactly what they told you.
Aug 10, 2018 Orlando, FL

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Renata BalascoSEO Content Strategist

Renata is a licensed insurance professional and content strategist responsible for creating home and auto insurance guides for The Zebra.

Renata's background in technical writing and her experience working in the insurance industry informs her work. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Renata's work has been cited by Car and Driver