Be Prepared: What to do After a Car Accident

No one ever plans to be in a car accident, but with close to 35,000 personal injury and fatality motor vehicle accidents being reported by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in 2014, there’s a strong possibility you may be involved in one.

You can be sure that after any accident, no matter how large or small, the scene will be chaotic, your stress levels will be high, and it will be difficult to focus on what you should do next. So, before disaster strikes, take a few minutes to learn about what you should and shouldn’t do after an accident. Preparing when things are calm, will save you from having to deal with problems later.

Things to Do After an Accident

  • Do – Stay calm and STOP. No matter what the circumstances are, you must remain at the scene of the accident. If you don’t stop, you may be charged with leaving the scene of an accident and subject to criminal prosecution. Try to refrain from engaging the other driver in an argument. The situation may already volatile, so it’s best to keep everyone calm.


  • Do – Keep yourself and others safe. Check out the scene to be sure you won’t be hit by another vehicle. If your vehicle can be driven, move it off to the side of the road and out of traffic. If not, leave in place, turn on your hazard lights and use flares or cones to alert passing motorists of the accident. If there are no injuries, get everyone out of the vehicle and move as far off the road as possible to wait for emergency personnel to arrive.


  • Do – Check for injuries. If anyone is injured, you should call 911 immediately, and remain in the vehicle. Apply pressure to reduce severe bleeding and wait for medical help to arrive. Take note of details such as seat belt usage, air bag deployment, position of passengers before and after the accident, and obvious injuries sustained. This information may be helpful for a personal injury lawyer when settling a future insurance claim.


  • Do – Exchange information. If possible, you and the other driver(s) should exchange names, addresses, phone numbers, driver licence details, licence plate numbers, registration information (including make, model and year of the vehicle), insurance company name and policy number. Also obtain information from any witnesses at the scene.


  • Do – File a police report. Accidents involving bodily injury, death or more than $1,000 in vehicle damage require a police report to be filed. You’ll be required to detail your actions and those of the other driver(s) leading up to the accident. It’s important to alert the officer of any erratic behavior by the other driver, so that on-scene testing can be done for DUI. Ask for a copy of the report as you’ll need to send it to your insurance company and your personal injury lawyer, if you hire one.


  • Do – Record details. If you have a cell phone or camera available, taking photos documenting damage to the car, road conditions, positions of the cars (before the cars are moved), etc. will be helpful with future insurance claims to determine fault. You can also audio record as much information as possible.


  • Do – Call a family member or friend. In addition to letting them know you’re okay, it will be helpful if someone can come to the scene. They can take all valuable or important items out of the vehicle for safe-keeping if the vehicle needs to be towed.


  • Do– Call your insurance company. The claims agent can guide you through insurance company’s procedures, and tell you where to take the vehicle for damage appraisal, arranging for a rental car and details on coverage and deductibles. You will be required to provide details of the accident when filing a claim, so it would be helpful to write down details while they are fresh in your mind. The extra notes will also give a personal injury lawyer a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding a future case. You should also note any lost or damaged personal items that were inside the vehicle at the time of the accident. You may be eligible for reimbursement for those items through your homeowner’s insurance policy.


  • Do – Call a tow truck. Ask your insurance agent or police officer for a reputable towing company. When the driver arrives, be sure to get a receipt and the location of where your car will be located. If damage is minor and the car doesn’t require a tow, you’ll need to take it to a Collision Reporting Centre within 24-hours of the accident. Damage will be assessed and photographed and attached to the police record.


  • Do – Seek medical treatment. Even if you feel fine after an accident, it’s important to be evaluated by a doctor. The health care professional will know what common motor vehicle accident injuries to look for when he or she performs a complete evaluation. Injuries to the neck, back, spinal cord, chest, shoulder and head are typically reported after a MVA. Proper diagnosis and treatment such as physiotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractic therapy may help reduce recovery time or the long-term impact of car accident injuries.


  • Do – Contact a personal injury lawyer. If you’ve suffered severe, long-term or permanently disabling injuries as a result of the MVA, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. In these cases, both your quality of life and ability to perform your job can be affected. Your attorney can help prove your case during legal proceedings and may enlist the help of each medical professional you’ve seen. A lawyer can also help with insurance company liability disputes or refusal to pay.


Things You Don’t Do After an Accident

  • Don’t – Move anyone who is injured. It’s possible to cause serious pain or permanent damage if you move someone prior to receiving a professional evaluation. The only exception to this is if it’s unsafe to stay in the vehicle, such as fire or a risk that your car will be hit by another vehicle.


  • Don’t – Leave the scene. As noted above, it’s a law that you must stay with your vehicle at the accident scene (unless your injuries are so severe you need immediate medical care). You may face serious legal consequences if you disregard the law.


  • Don’t – Take responsibility or assume liability. You also shouldn’t promise to pay for damage or accept payment from the other party at the accident scene. While it may be tempting to settle for a direct payment, claiming to be at fault may negatively affect your driving record and you may have to pay a deductible. In addition, there may be underlying damage to your vehicle you can’t see at the site. Plus, you may be opening up the possibility of a lawsuit from the other driver. It’s best to wait for the police and/or your personal injury attorney before making any statements.


  • Don’t – Allow an unauthorized tow truck driver to take your vehicle. Unscrupulous operators may pressure you into accepting their services, demand high payments, or force you to use “their” body shop. The police can provide names of authorized tow truck drivers who will help you during this traumatic time.


  • Don’t – Repair your vehicle before consulting with insurance agent. You’re probably anxious to get your car fixed and get back to your normal routine as soon as possible. Repairs performed by an unauthorized dealer may result in a loss of insurance coverage and the work may not be guaranteed.


Be Prepared For an Emergency

There’s never a good time to have an accident, but there are some simple things you can to be prepared for any road emergency. Always keep an emergency kit in your car. It should include these items:

  • a first aid kit
  • emergency road flares or cones
  • a fire extinguisher (A-B-C Type)
  • bottled water
  • a flashlight and batteries
  • a camera
  • jumper cables
  • a tire iron, pressure gauge, repair kit and pump
  • window washer solution
  • motor oil
  • coolant
  • a basic tool kit
  • paper towels
  • a thermal blanket
  • a pad of paper and a pen

The best course of action following an accident is to consult with local therapists like those at Main Street Health. It’s important to be checked for any injuries and presented with a recommended treatment plan. Schedule a professional assessment to help set you on a path to a speedy recovery.

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