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There are four steps that you should follow after most accidents: Move off the road to a safe place and address any injuries, call the police, gather information and report the accident to the insurance company.
While every situation is different, notifying the police and your insurer of the accident immediately are the most important steps to ensuring any damage and injuries are covered by your insurance.
What to do after a car accident
Step 1: Check for injuries and move off the road to a safe place
The first thing you should do after an accident is move out of the road and away from traffic. If your car is driveable, pull off to the shoulder. If you're unable to move your vehicle, you and your passengers should get out of the car and move away from oncoming traffic to a safe place.
If someone is in need of urgent medical attention (including yourself), then you should call an ambulance to get help as soon as possible.
Although it's important to get to a safe place, you should not move anyone who's badly injured unless they're in immediate danger. Moving someone who's hurt could worsen their injuries, especially if they have a spinal injury.
Step 2: Call the police
After a car crash, you should call the police to report the accident immediately. The responding officers will gather statements from all drivers involved in the accident and any witnesses, then write a report.
Don't admit fault
When speaking with the police, stick to the facts. Avoid admitting fault or assigning blame for the accident. Doing so can make it difficult for your insurer to defend you in future proceedings to establish fault — which could result in you being held liable for damages.
It's usually a good idea to call the police after an accident, even if it's a minor fender bender or nobody else is involved.
If you only damage your own property, like backing into a fence or garage door, calling the police probably isn't necessary.
However, some states require you to file a report for accidents in which a certain amount of property damage occurs. In New York, for example, you're required to file a report within 10 days of the accident if the property damage exceeds $1,000, even if it's damage to your own car.
Some cities have a nonemergency police line that you can call for minor accidents, instead of calling 911. The city may not send an officer to investigate very minor collisions, but you should receive a reference number for proof of the date and time of the accident and that you reported it.
Step 3: Gather information
After you've called the police, you'll need to exchange information with the other drivers involved, get contact information from any witnesses, and take pictures of the scene of the accident.
How to exchange insurance info
Information about the other drivers and their vehicles is essential when filing a claim. You'll need to gather the following information from any other drivers involved in the accident:
- Personal information: Name and telephone number
- Insurance information: Company, policy number and telephone number (this information can be found on their insurance card)
- Vehicle information: Make, model and license plate number
Additionally, it can be helpful to get the name and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. You'll need this information for your insurer and the accident report you may have to file with law enforcement. If a police officer shows up on the scene, they will usually include witness information in the police report.
It's important to get a copy of the police report and record the name and badge number of any officers who responded to your call.
You'll need to submit this information to your insurance company if you or the other driver files a claim for damage incurred during the accident. The police report may not say who was at fault, but it provides important information about the accident that the insurance company will use to determine who caused any damage.
Pictures of the accident, including damage to your vehicle, can speed up the claim process and help prove who was at fault. Take pictures of:
- Damage to your car and other vehicles or objects
- The intersection or area where the wreck occurred
- Any pertinent traffic signs or signals
- Other details that may help your insurance company understand how the accident occurred
Step 4: Report the accident to insurance
If the accident was not your fault, you should always alert both your insurance company and the other driver's insurance company, even if you feel fine or can't spot any damage. You may start experiencing pain later on, or find underlying damage to your vehicle, and notifying your insurer of your accident as soon as possible is crucial to making sure you can successfully file a claim and get your vehicle repaired.
We don't recommend making a deal if the at-fault driver wants to pay out of pocket. If additional problems arise down the road, you may have to pay for them yourself if you agreed to settle the matter without getting your insurance involved.
It's important to call the insurance company as soon as possible — if you fail to report an accident in a timely manner, you may end up having to pay for your injuries or property damage yourself.
If the accident was your fault, you'll only need to call your insurer if you're going to make a claim. However, your insurer may contact you for more details if the other driver files a claim against you, which is why it's important to gather as much information as you can while you're at the scene of the accident.
How do I file a claim
Most major insurance companies give drivers a number of ways to report a claim, including:
- Calling your company's claims department
- Starting the claims process online or via a mobile app
- Contacting your insurance agent
What does insurance cover in an accident?
Whether insurance will cover damage or injuries caused by an accident depends on who is at fault, and the types of coverage you have.
The accident is your fault
Whether you hit another car, a pedestrian, a tree, a pole or a building, the liability portion of your car insurance will cover resulting injuries or property damage.
There are two types of liability insurance:
Bodily injury and property damage liability coverage is required for most drivers, but the minimum amount varies by state.
The amount covered by your insurance depends on your limits. If you're involved in a serious accident, the minimum limits may not be high enough to pay all of the medical and repair bills associated with the accident. In that case, you're responsible for paying any excess expenses.
Damage to your car and your injuries
If your car is damaged in the accident you cause, your insurance will only pay for repairs if you have collision coverage.
That's because collision insurance pays for damage to your vehicle, regardless of whose fault it is. However, you will have to pay a portion of the repair bill yourself in the form of your deductible. In addition, filing a collision claim will cause your insurance rates to go up, so it's important to consider whether it makes more sense for you to pay for your repairs out of pocket.
If you were hurt in the accident, your car insurance will help cover your medical bills if you have personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay) coverage. Drivers who don't have either coverage can use their health insurance to help pay their medical expenses.
The accident is not your fault
When someone else causes an accident, their liability insurance is responsible for your damage or injuries. That means you won't have to use your own collision coverage, personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage, so you don't have to worry about your rates going up if you make a claim.
There are a few instances when you'll have to rely on your own insurance to pay for damage, even if the accident wasn't your fault:
Someone else was driving your car
If you allow your friend to drive your car and they wreck it, then it will be covered up to your bodily injury and property damage liability limits. Additionally, damage to your car is covered by collision insurance, if you have it, less your deductible.
If you can prove that your friend borrowed your car without permission — or if your car was stolen — you will not be held liable for damage caused in an accident. Instead, your friend's auto insurance policy will pay for repairs to your vehicle and for losses incurred by other parties in the accident. Additionally, depending on your friend's insurance policy, you could seek a settlement against them to get reimbursed for the cost of any repairs needed.
Your insurer will likely assume that your friends have permission to use your car, and proving they don't may be difficult. You often need to provide evidence that they have been explicitly forbidden from driving your car to prove your friend wasn't allowed to operate your vehicle.
How much does car insurance go up after an accident?
If you cause an accident that results in damage or injuries, your car insurance rates will usually increase.
If someone was injured in the accident, you can expect to pay 46% more for insurance. That's an increase of $1,157 per year for a full-coverage policy, on average.
Drivers who qualify for or have purchased accident forgiveness see a smaller impact on their insurance rates. Accident forgiveness programs help drivers avoid a rate increase after their first at-fault accident. However, you could still end up paying more for insurance as a result of losing a good driver discount.
An accident in which you are not considered to be at fault should not result in a rate increase. This includes uninsured or underinsured motorist and comprehensive claims.
Frequently asked questions
Does a police report automatically go to insurance?
No, a police report does not automatically go to your insurance company. Although your insurer can call the police department to request a copy, the process will be much faster if you have a copy of the police report that you can share.
Can I get insurance after an accident?
Yes, you can get insurance after an accident. However, you'll pay 46% more for insurance than a driver with a clean record, on average.
Do you have to call the police after an accident?
Although you may not need to call the police after a minor fender bender or single vehicle accident, it's smart to make a report and get a case number in case you experience an injury a few hours later or find hidden damage to your vehicle.
What insurance information do I need for an accident?
When exchanging insurance information with other drivers, make sure that you get their name, phone number, the name and phone number of their insurance company, their policy number and information about their car, like the make, model and license plate number.
Should you move your car after an accident?
If your car is driveable, you should move it out of the way of traffic so that it doesn't get hit by a distracted driver and cause additional injuries or damage.
To calculate the increase in insurance rate after an accident with injuries, we gathered quotes from every state. Rates are based on a 30-year-old man driving a 2015 Honda Civic with coverage limits of:
|Bodily injury liability||$50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident|
|Property damage liability||$25,000 per accident|
|Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury||$50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident|
|Comprehensive and collision||$500 deductible|
We used Quadrant Information Services to compile the insurance rate data. The data was publicly sourced from insurer filings. Rates should be used for comparative purposes only, as your quote may be different.