Nobody gets in their car with their family thinking they’ll get in a crash. But more than 6 million accidents occur on U.S. roads every year in the United States, and there’s no telling when or where you and your family members may be affected.
When accidents happen to you or those you care about, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, by taking time now to learn about post-accident processes and how to get through everything as smoothly as possible, you can help everyone move on more quickly. Here’s what to do when your family gets into a car accident:
While this won’t be possible in every situation, the first thing you should do is see if you can move the vehicle out of harm’s way. While most oncoming traffic will usually slow or stop at the sight of an accident, it’s important to remember that larger vehicles take longer to come to a stop. If you’re on a highway, for example, a truck that’s going around 65 mph will take up to 120 yards (that’s two full football fields!) to come to a complete stop. The faster you can get your car out of harm’s way, the better. If you cannot move the car, it’s best to sit and wait for help.
See if Anyone is Hurt
Regardless of how badly the car may be damaged, injuries should always take priority. Though they vary greatly in severity, injuries are very common in car accidents (statistics show that around 3 million Americans are hurt each year). While it may be tempting to reach immediately for any children or elderly in the car to see if they’re hurt, check yourself first for any signs of serious injury. Then, instead of reaching for your family members or trying to move them, call out and ask if anyone is hurt. Keep communicating with them verbally while you wait for help.
Depending on how severe the accident was, bystanders may have already called the police or emergency services. If someone in your car has been injured, it’s a good idea to go ahead and call 9-1-1 first to ensure they receive prompt medical attention. In all cases, you’ll want to make sure you file a police report for the accident. No matter who is deemed ‘at fault’ for the accident, having a report on file with the details will help with insurance claims for all involved. Always read any reports fully before you sign them to ensure the details are correct. Make sure you get a copy as well.
Take Photos and Record Details
Responding police officers will likely take photos of the accident for their reports. But if you’re not injured and are able to safely exit the vehicle, taking photos of your own is a good idea to back up your insurance claims. If another car is involved, take photos of the damage there as well. You may want to save them in their own file so you can easily access them later on. Additionally, jot down some notes about how you remember the accident happening and the details you see around you.
Remember that Staying Calm is Key
This is way easier said than done, but one of the best things you can do for everyone involved at the time of a car accident is to stay as calm and collected as possible. This will help younger family members and those who may be more sensitive to intense situations feel more at ease and less at risk of a panic attack. If anyone is injured, staying calm with them will also help prevent them from taking sudden movements and hurting themselves further.
Call Your Auto Insurance Agent When You Can
Vehicle damage varies greatly, and higher-priced models may need extra time for claims and repairs. For example, around 13% of repairs on a Mercedes-Benz qualify as ‘severe’ (compared to under 12% for other cars). So, the sooner you call your insurance agent, the better. It’s understandable if you can’t do so right away, but the sooner they can start processing your information and accident details, the smoother your claim will go.