What you need to do if you cause an auto accident
In the immediate aftermath of a vehicle collision, regardless of who's at fault, there are often heightened emotions and it can be hard to keep a cool head. When you believe that your actions have caused the accident, it's especially difficult to remain calm.
Getting the priorities in order will help ensure that the physical and emotional fallout is minimized. Here are some key actions to take to help you resolve this difficult situation in the best way possible, and avoid common mistakes.
- First – make yourselves safe
Your number one priority will be to check that everyone is OK – not only your passengers but the driver and passengers in the other vehicle.
Next, as long as they can move safely, get them off the road to wait in a safe place.
Then place warning signs on the road to let other vehicles know there's an obstruction up ahead – the last thing you want is further collisions.
Call 911, and wait for help.
- Gather information
Assuming the other driver can do so exchange information so that your insurance company can follow up later.
Use your phone to document the scene. Not just the damage to the vehicles, but their relative stopping positions, and the surroundings.
- Assist the police
Once the police and first responders arrive on the scene, they'll decide on the appropriate level of action. For example, you may be breathalyzed. If they believe that your reckless or negligent driving caused the accident – for example, if you were texting while driving - you may be charged with a criminal offense. In this case, call an experienced car accident lawyer to assist you.
- Obtain medical care
Not all injuries may be immediately apparent – for example, head or neck injuries are not always visible before diagnostic tests are carried out. So it's important to visit a medical facility after any collision- preferably one with special expertise in auto accidents, to obtain a plan of treatment.
- Be aware of possible long-term effects
After an auto accident, especially one that you've caused, long-term psychological issues, including insomnia, depression, or PTSD can result. These symptoms need professional assessment and possibly long-term help to understand what happened and come to terms with the shock and guilt over your actions, especially if loss of life or life-changing injuries were the result.
- Deal with the financial consequences
As soon as practical, report the accident to your insurer. Provide all documents they request, plus your documentation of the scene.
Expect that, unless your policy includes ‘accident forgiveness' your insurance premiums will rise as a result. If you live in an ‘at-fault' accident insurance state, as the driver who caused the accident, you'll have to pay all the damages incurred by your actions. This not only covers medical expenses and vehicle repairs but if surrounding property (such as a storefront, or property fence) has been damaged, you'll have to put that right, too.