blog /

What to Do After A Car Accident: The Checklist

Posted On: January 18, 2024

If you get yourself into a fender-bender, you probably know the drill. Pull off to the side, exchange identity and insurance information with the other driver, and take some cellphone photos of the damage done to the cars. But, if you’ve been in a serious accident and have been injured, what you must do becomes more urgent, while what you can do may be strictly limited.

Here is a post-car accident checklist with important steps in such an emergency.


1. Get safe.

Your immediate concern after a collision is whether there will be a second collision. Are you visible to oncoming traffic? Can traffic avoid you? If not, you’ve got three choices:

  • Move your car — This is the optimal choice, if the car can move. Get it off to the side of the road and stay in it until help arrives.
  • Put down fluorescent triangles or road flares — If there’s vehicle damage and the car won’t move, you’ve got to give approaching traffic a warning. Place flares in a diagonal across the lane where your car is stranded. Before dropping a flare, make sure that your car is not leaking gasoline.
  • Leave your car — This is never a good option, since exposing yourself to traffic and the elements invites more danger to your health and safety. But, if the car cannot be made safe, this may be your least bad option. Of course, whether you’re able to leave the car depends on whether you or your passengers are injured.


2. Tend to injuries.

Depending on the severity of the injuries, you may have to provide aid before you think of moving the car. But be wise when choosing. It doesn’t do your wounded passenger any good if you’re rear-ended again while applying pressure to a cut. Refrain from moving an injured passenger unless the car is absolutely unsafe due to a fire or other emergency.


3. Call for help.

A personal injury accident is a police emergency. Call 911 and ask for police and an ambulance so you can get medical treatment. Then wait in a safe place.


4. Start building your case.

This may seem cold and calculating, but the harsh fact of the matter is that evidence vanishes quickly. To the best of your ability at this time you must:

  • Collect identifying information from witnesses — If people stop, ask for contact information. Write down the license plate numbers of their vehicles.
  • Get photos of the crash site, the vehicles and the injuries — This evidence is critical to proving fault and damages at the scene of the accident. Collect a police report or accident report from the police officer.
  • Get identifying information from the other driver — If you suspect the other driver may have been drinking, do not engage. Take down the license plate number, and tell the police of your suspicions as soon as they arrive.
  • Call a car accident lawyer Our office can send an auto accident investigator to the scene to collect any evidence you might have missed and help you with the claims process.


5. Go to the hospital.

Even if the auto accident was a minor fender bender and you don’t think you’re badly hurt, you should get medical attention immediately. Adrenalin can often mask a serious condition that worsens overnight.


What are the best ways to report a car accident?

The way you report an accident depends on if it was a minor accident or a major collision.

If the collision is minor and you don’t need a police response you should exchange information including:

  • Insurance information: Car insurance company, policy number, and phone number. You can simply take a picture of their insurance card.
  • Personal information: Phone numbers, driver’s license number and ID.
  • Recorded statement: You can write down and date what happened from the other motorist and any witnesses. This will be helpful for your insurance claim.

You can then report collisions online via Collision Report with Washington State Patrol.

If the collision is major you will collect all of the same information above, but you will also need a police report. If a law enforcement officer investigates the collision they will file a collision report so you won’t need to.


Should I document the accident scene?

Yes! We highly advise taking photos of vehicle damage, the driver’s auto insurance, injuries, and the driver’s license plate number. This is incredibly useful in a hit-and-run situation as well as for building your case and to help your insurance provider to determine who’s at fault. If you forgot to take pictures at the scene, we recommend you do this.

In any motor vehicle collisions where there was bodily injury or at least $1,000 in property damage to any one person’s property, the following information is added to the driving record of all drivers involved:

  • The collision date
  • The number of vehicles involved
  • Whether the vehicles were moving or not
  • Whether the collision resulted in any injury or fatality
  • Accident report number


Should I go to urgent care or the ER?

Determining where to seek medical attention after a car accident depends on the severity of the injuries. For life-threatening or severe injuries, the emergency room is the best choice. However, for minor injuries, urgent care could be a suitable option. Understanding the differences between the ER and urgent care helps make an informed choice.


What are some follow-up tasks after a car accident?

Following a car accident, there are several crucial tasks. Seeking medical care, notifying insurance companies, and gathering evidence are immediate steps to take. However, the process doesn’t end there.

Follow-up tasks may include:

  • Documenting medical treatments
  • Pursuing legal guidance
  • Collaborating with insurance providers to file claims and estimate damages.


Calculating damages after a car accident

Calculating damages after a car accident involves various factors, including medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages. For guidance check out this guide. Understanding and documenting the damages incurred is crucial for insurance claims and any legal proceedings that may follow.


How can an experienced car accident law firm help?

Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler PLLC provides experienced legal representation following serious Tacoma car crashes. To schedule a free consultation, call today at 253-383-5388 or contact our office online.