What to Do When You Get in a Car Accident: A Step-by-Step Guide

This step-by-step guide will provide the necessary information to help you navigate the aftermath of a car accident.
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What to Do When You Get in a Car Accident

Written by Brian Sloan

Last updated: March 27th, 2023

Reviewed by Brian Greenberg
CEO / Founder & Licensed Insurance Agent

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car accidents caused over 31,000 fatalities in 2022. And since many vehicular offenses can result in criminal charges, knowing what to do when in the situation can make all the difference.

1. Stay Calm and Check for Injuries

Maintaining composure is important after a car accident. While feeling overwhelmed is normal, panicking can only worsen things. Take a few deep breaths and assess yourself for any injuries. If you are not injured, check on the other passengers in the car. If there are injuries, call 911 right away.

If you can’t move or feel pain in your neck or back, it’s important to stay still and wait for medical assistance. If there are no injuries or if they are minor, move to a safe area to avoid any further accidents. If it’s not possible to move your car or it’s unsafe, stay in the vehicle with your seatbelt fastened until help arrives.

2. Call the Police

Call the police immediately, even if it’s a minor accident. The police will create an accident report, which will be useful for insurance and legal purposes. If it’s a hit-and-run car accident or a DUI accident, it’s even more important to call the police immediately.

When the police officers arrive, they may ask you some questions regarding the accident. Answer these questions truthfully and calmly, but don’t admit fault or apologize. Remember that anything you say can be used against you later, especially if they suspect you are driving under the influence.

Here are some possible questions the police may ask you and how to respond to them:


Q: May I have your license, registration, and insurance information?

  • “Here you go, officer.”


Q: Have you had any alcoholic drinks or taken any drugs before driving?

  • You may say, “I choose to remain silent and not respond to the question,” to avoid incriminating yourself.

Q: Do you consent to a vehicle search?

  • Police officers may only search a vehicle without a warrant if they have probable cause. Otherwise, they will need your consent. You may tell them politely that you “do not agree to a vehicle search without a warrant.”

Q: Do you agree to a field sobriety test?

  • Field sobriety tests are voluntary. You may tell the officer that you “do not consent to roadside testing.”

Q: Can you take a breathalyzer test?

  • In most states, you are required to take a breathalyzer test if asked by a police officer. However, you may refuse the test. Keep in mind that refusing the test may result in the suspension of your driver’s license.

3. Contact a DUI Attorney (In case of a DUI Accident)

If you’ve been involved in a DUI accident, contacting a DUI attorney as soon as possible is critical. Driving under the influence is a serious offense, and the consequences can be severe, including fines, DUI school or DUI classes online, license suspension, and even jail time. A DUI attorney can help you navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

If you’re a victim of a DUI accident, your priority must be to seek medical attention for yourself and anyone else who may be injured. However, it’s also important to contact an experienced attorney when you can. A DUI accident is a serious matter; you need the right representation to protect your rights and interests.

4. Exchange Information

Once everyone is safe, exchange information with the other driver involved in the accident. Get their full name, contact information, and insurance details. Take note of the license plate number, the vehicle’s make and model, and the accident’s location. And if there are any witnesses to the accident, ask for their contact information.

Even if the other driver does not have insurance, collecting as much information as possible is still important. You will need this when filing a claim against them later on.

5. Take Pictures and Document the Accident

Take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to your car and the other car, skid marks, and injuries sustained. This can be helpful for insurance and legal purposes.

Document the accident by writing down the date, time, location, and a brief description of what happened. If there are any witnesses, ask for their contact information, as they may be able to provide additional information that can be helpful later.

6. Seek Medical Attention

Even if you feel okay after the accident, it’s essential to get checked out by a medical professional. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent and can worsen over time.

If you suspect a serious injury or feel pain or discomfort, seek medical attention immediately. Obtaining and keeping copies of your medical exam and any other medical-related documents is also important.

7.  Contact Your Insurance Company

Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. Provide them with all the details of the accident and any documentation, including pictures and witness statements. They will guide you through the claims process and advise you on what steps to take next.

If the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, be honest and factual when discussing the accident, but do not discuss fault or liability with them. You should also not sign any documents without consulting your insurance company or a lawyer.

8. Follow Up on the Accident

If there are any legal proceedings, consult with a lawyer. Keep track of deadlines and court appearances, especially when dealing with a DUI charge. Missing your court date can lead the judge to issue a bench warrant for your arrest, on top of other consequences.

Additionally, follow up with your insurance company and medical professionals to ensure everything is handled properly.

What to Do in a Vehicular Accident Checklist

Car accidents happen in the blink of an eye but can have far-reaching effects. That is why it is important not to let the post-crash shock distract you or your family from doing what you need to do to minimize the damages and consequences of the accident.

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind when involved in a car accident:


  • Stay calm and check for injuries.
  • Move to a safe area to avoid further accidents.
  • Call the police, even if it’s a minor accident.
  • Exchange information with other drivers involved in the accident.
  • Take pictures and document the accident scene.
  • Seek medical attention even if you feel okay after the accident.
  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Follow up on the accident, including legal proceedings.


  • Panic or admit fault or apologize for the accident.
  • Discuss fault or liability with the other driver’s insurance company.
  • Sign any documents without consulting your insurance company or a lawyer.
  • Forget any legal proceedings or court appearances (if there are any).

Remember, staying calm is the key when involved in a car accident. Taking the appropriate measures will help you protect your rights and prepare you for what lies ahead.

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