What to do immediately after a car accident

You're out enjoying a drive with your family, or maybe you're gritting your teeth through a rush-hour commute, when it happens — a car hits you, or you hit another car. What now? Take these steps immediately after you've been involved in a car accident:

  1. Stop driving and move your car to a safe place. Immediately after the accident, slow down and look for a safe place to stop. If the collision is minor and your car is still operational, carefully pull over to the side of the road where it's safe to do so to avoid blocking traffic. If the collision is serious or there are serious injuries or fatalities, stop your car where you are and turn on your hazard lights. The police will want to investigate the scene. Don't leave the scene of the accident, as this can result in criminal charges.
  2. Check to see if anyone is injured. If injuries are involved, call 911 immediately and wait for help. Do NOT attempt to move anyone who is injured.
  3. Survey the damage. Do this only if it's safe to exit your vehicle. Take pictures or record a video of the scene, the road conditions, and any damage to the vehicles. Note any specific details that could be helpful when making an insurance claimopens a pop-up with definition of claim or police report, such as the speed you were travelling, weather conditions, and if there are passengers or witnesses.
  4. Exchange information with the other driver. If another vehicle is involved, exchange names and contact information with everyone involved, including passengers and witnesses. Make sure you collect the other driver's licence number, vehicle details, and insurance information. Collecting as much information as you can at the scene will help your insurer process your claim as quickly as possible.
  5. Call the police. If there are serious injuries, someone should have already called 911. But you should also contact the police if the damage appears to be over $2,000 (in most provinces — this limit can vary depending on your location within Canada). You should also call the police if there is significant damage to the highway or roadway, or if any pedestrians or cyclists are involved. Make sure you call the police regardless of damage if the other driver has left the scene, or if you suspect the other driver is impaired, unlicensed, or staging an accident in a fraud attempt.
  6. Report your car accident. You should report the accident to the police, even if the damage is minor and there are no injuries. This'll guarantee your account of the collision is on record. Where you report it to and the amount of time you have to do it vary across Canada. In Ontario, for instance, you should report the accident to your nearest collision centre within 24 hours. Other provinces and territories require you to contact the public insurance office or regional police station. If you aren't sure, call your local police on their non-emergency line for guidance.
  7. Arrange for a tow truck. If your car isn't drivable, arrange for a tow truck to pick you up. Call your insurance provider to find out the best towing option. They may make the arrangements for you and provide information on getting a ride home, so long as you have proper coverage for the loss.
  8. Contact your insurance broker or your insurer. They will guide you through the next steps and start your claim. It's best to make this call as soon as possible if you haven't already called from the scene. Many insurers have customer service numbers you can call 24/7. You may be thinking you don't want to make a claim, but if you develop any injuries or the other driver decides to make a claim, you'll want to have a record of the accident.
  9. Now that you know what to do, there are also some things you should avoid after a car accident. Keep these tips in mind.
  10. Never argue with the other driver. Emotions may be high, but try to remain calm. If you feel unsafe, call 911.
  11. Don't voluntarily assume fault or responsibility. Don't sign statements or promise to pay for damage at the scene of the accident.
  12. Don't feel pressured to use an unauthorized tow truck. Be wary of tow truck operators who show up on scene unsolicited. Don't feel pressured to accept their services. If you do, make sure that any paperwork you sign is for towing to a location of your choice, and not a blank work order or agreement to have your vehicle repaired by a specific facility.
  13. In a perfect world, you'd never need to use this information — but accidents happen, and if one happens to you, you won't have to wonder what to do next. You can also be prepared for the unexpected by having the appropriate insurance coverage for your car, including collision coverage. Reach out to your licensed insurance broker to discuss your current coverage or to explore your options.

This article was originally posted on economical.com.

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