What to do After a Car Accident: Step-by-Step

Getting into a car accident is always a stressful experience, and the hours and days to follow are often overwhelming and confusing. There are so many questions and concerns regarding what to do after a car accident, and it’s frustrating not to have immediate answers. While it’s important to find an experienced adjuster to handle your claim so that you get the advice you want and the relief you need, it’s even more important to be aware of the process and your entitlements, to ensure no one takes advantage of you.

Although each accident has its own unique circumstances, there are some things that are generally standard when it comes to what to do after a car accident. There are six things that most insurance companies will be sure to look at in the aftermath of an auto accident.

  • An explanation of the accident from the insured driver
  • The other driver’s take on how the accident happened
  • The police report of the accident
  • Any eye witness testimonies
  • Proof of physical damage at the scene
  • Medical records for any treatment of related injuries

It’s important to be careful throughout the claims process, starting at the time of the car accident. This is a difficult task, because of the emotions involved immediately after a car accident, but the payoff of having everything you need to make the process go smoothly is tremendous. There are three stages of the auto insurance claims process.

Stage One: The Scene of the Car Accident

Your adjuster obviously won’t be at the scene of the accident, which is why taking photographs is very important. First things first, you should promptly call the police to file a report. Having an officer on the scene will be very valuable to your claim, should the adjuster need to speak with someone who was present, and for the purposes of having a report to refer to during the claims process. After calling the police, it’s a good idea to call your insurance company while you’re still at the scene to report the accident. This is called the First Notice of Loss (FNOL), and will help to establish the coverage to which you’re entitled, the extent of the damage you’ve incurred, and identification of the liable party.

Stage Two: Gather Relevant Information and Follow Up

You should take note of the time that the accident occurred, which direction any involved vehicle was traveling, and the speed at which they were moving. You should write down any other additional details you think might be helpful later on while they’re still fresh in your mind. After reporting your accident to your insurance provider, you’ll set up an appointment for an adjuster to come out and assess your vehicle. This is when you should be taking photos of the entire scene of the accident, including any physical damage on either vehicle (from numerous angles), anything at the scene that may be important later on (such as a disregarded traffic sign that played a part in the accident), and any visible injuries sustained as a result.

Stage Three: Reaching a Resolution

If you were injured during your accident, you should keep a daily log of your pain and any medical treatment you’ve had. Also be sure to track any travel expenses related to your medical treatment, and keep all of your receipts, including those for prescriptions, equipment, and health insurance co-pays. This documentation should also include any time you’ve had to take off from work as a result of your injuries. It’s important to share all of this information with the adjuster who is handling your claim. Once your adjuster has finished reviewing all of the material pertinent to your claim, he or she will offer you a settlement amount to cover the costs you’ve incurred. If this amount is unsatisfactory, and you’re unable to agree on a settlement with your insurer, you may have to seek legal counsel to pursue filing a lawsuit.

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