While most of us would prefer not to think about it, it remains an unfortunate fact of life that in a split second, the unthinkable can happen: in the time that it takes to blink, you or someone that you know could become the unsuspecting victim of a car accident. Without actually expecting such a thing to happen, it is important to be prepared for the possibility that, at any time, an accident could occur without warning; knowing what to do in the few minutes directly following an accident, for instance, could actually mean the difference between safety and harm – possibly even life and death. Listed below are a few of the essentials to remember in the minutes following an accident, should one ever happen to occur. In these crucial moments, having a plan and being able to follow it calmly and quickly could be what gets you – and your loved ones – home in one piece.
1. If possible, get yourself and your passengers out of harm’s way. If your car is still functional and can move safely, attempt to steer it over to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic, after which time you should turn it off and have everyone exit the car and move to a safe distance as quickly as possible. If the car cannot be moved safely, exit it and move away as described above but make sure to watch out for any nearby hazards like fires, broken glass or live electrical wires.
2. Assess injuries and get help as needed. If anyone who was involved in the accident is injured or seems as though they might need first aid treatment, call 911 immediately and request an ambulance at the scene. If you or any bystanders have been trained in first aid and are able to do so safely, some basic first aid might be administered before ambulances arrive as well.
3. Stay at the scene until help arrives. Police and medical crews arriving at the scene will want to take statements from you and anyone else involved, and will likely find these statements useful in some way. It is also illegal in most cases to leave the scene of an accident before help arrives, so it would generally be in your best interest to stay put if possible.
4. Remain calm. While an accident can certainly prove emotionally strenuous, it is important to try to remain as focused and objective as possible, both immediately after the accident and after the authorities arrive. Determining exactly who is “to blame” is a task best left to the police and the respective insurance companies of those involved, so delivering your account of things calmly and objectively is the strategy most likely to lead to a fair judgment and a speedy resolution.
5. Document as much as you can. Beyond exchanging all pertinent information with any others involved (names, phone numbers, car makes and models, license plate numbers and so on), record as much about the incident itself as possible, as this might later prove useful in court. Any witnesses at the scene should also be asked about what they saw and should have their personal information taken down in case they need to be contacted or testify in court.