Learning Center

What to Do Before and After an Auto Accident


Before an accident ever happens, keep these items on hand.

  • A copy of your insurance information.
  • A pen and paper for taking notes.
  • A copy of your vehicle registration.
  • A disposable camera. (Many mobile phones are equipped with a camera.)
  • A flashlight.
  • A list of local law enforcement agencies and their phone numbers.
  • A copy of this checklist.

If you’ve had a mishap, take these steps to protect yourself.

Car accidents are every driver’s worst dream. Here are some tips to help you make it through the minutes immediately following a collision.

Stay calm. It’s normal to feel shock, guilt, fear and anger. Take a few deep breaths and count to 10 to calm down. The calmer you are, the better you’ll handle the situation.

Keep safe. If your vehicle is drivable, move it out of traffic (like to a shoulder or parking lot). If you can't move your car, don't try. If you can't get out of your car – or it's not safe to try – keep your seatbelt fastened, turn on your flashers, call the police and wait for help to arrive.

Call the police. No matter the situation, report the accident and ask for help – especially if there are injuries.

Don't accept or place blame. Don't admit fault, say "I'm sorry" or blame the other driver. You should only speak to the other driver to get their information and to make sure they’re OK. Only talk to the police and your insurance company.

Exchange information with the other driver(s). This includes driver's license numbers, vehicle registration, license plate number and state, and insurance information. If the other driver is unlicensed and/or uninsured, immediately call the police if they are not already on the way. Note: Do not provide your Social Security number. Police and insurance companies do not need this information.

Get a copy of the accident report. Make sure this police report includes the officer's name and contact information. The officer's report will be useful if the accident goes to court.

Take notes. Write down as much information as you can – year, make, model, color of the other cars, etc. Take photos of the scene, including the vehicles and any damage, the roads, traffic signs, and the direction each vehicle was traveling.

Try to include things like date, time, weather conditions and anything you can think of that may be relevant. (For example, was there road construction, debris in the road or a malfunctioning traffic signal?) Write down whatever you can think of as it might be helpful to the accident investigation.

If there were any witnesses, try to get their names and contact information.

Call a tow truck. If your vehicle is unsafe to drive, call a tow truck and have a professional mechanic fully check out your car.

Call your insurance agent. The sooner your agent is aware of your accident, the sooner they can begin the claim process.

After it’s over... Following a collision some people may have a hard time getting over what happened—especially if they feel the crash was avoidable. These feelings are all normal. Once some time passes, the car is repaired and the insurance companies have been dealt with, most car crashes become mere afterthoughts. If you are showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you may need to seek help from a medical professional.

Questions? Contact your local American Family insurance agent for more information how you can better protect yourself after an auto accident.

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