by: Tara Baukus Mello

    Tires squeal and you brace yourself for the inevitable sound of metal crunching. The actual accident is over in a few seconds, but what should you do afterwards? Here are 10 smart moves to make after you've been in a car accident.

    1. Think safety first.
    It's a given to think safety in a more serious crash, but the after affects of fender-benders can be dangerous too. While in many states, the law requires you to stop after a collision, it's important to pull out of any driving lanes, even if the traffic behind you is stopped. This is to avoid a secondary collision, as well as to not impede traffic flow.

    If you are the front car in a collision, motion to the other driver and have him follow you to the closest spot where there's room for both of you to pull over safely. If you are parked in the breakdown lane, be sure to stay as far away from moving cars as possible as you exchange information and assess damage.

    If you can't move your car out of traffic, stay in the car with your seat belt buckled and call 911. No matter where you are stopped, turn your hazard lights on or put out flares or an emergency triangle if it's safe to do so.

    2. Check for injuries.
    Even in a relatively minor collision, people can be hurt. First, look at yourself, in a mirror if possible. While your adrenaline will be flowing hard, stop and think about if any part of your body hurts or if you are dizzy, short of breath or have other symptoms of an injury. Once you decide you are okay, ask the others involved if they are hurt. If anyone is injured or even seems like they might be, call 911. Unless you have first aid training, don't move anyone who is injured unless they are at risk of further injuries because of their location.

    3. Consider calling the police.

    In many states, if no one is hurt, the cars involved are not blocking traffic and damage is under $1000, reporting the accident to the police is not required (New York and Massachusetts are two such places), but you may choose to make the call if you want a police report taken. If you think getting a report of the accident would be helpful in establishing fault or because you suspect fraud, then certainly make the call to request police assistance.

    Sometimes, especially in cities where officers are busy responding to calls of injuries and lawbreakers, the police may not respond to this request for a minor accident. Even if they don't respond, you may be required to file a report yourself, if anyone is hurt or if the damage exceeds a certain amount. Check with your local police, Department of Motor Vehicles or insurance company to find out. Keep in mind though, that in many states, if a police report is filed, your insurance company will be notified of the accident, which could derail you if you have plans to keep the accident quiet, though not reporting it is illegal in many states.

    4. Look for eyewitnesses.
    Noting any eyewitnesses to the collision is a smart move, especially if there's any question of fault in the collision. Go to the eyewitnesses as quickly as possible to get the full name, street address and day and evening phone numbers for each witness. Even if no police report is taken, you can provide this info to your insurance company.

    5. Make a plan if your car is being towed.
    If the damage to your car is severe enough that it needs to be towed, take a few minutes to make a plan your next steps. Where do you want the car to be towed? Having it delivered to a dealer, mechanic or body shop you trust is ideal, even if you need to pay a bit because it's being towed further away. If you car is taken to the towing company's yard or other nearby location and you'll want it to go somewhere else later, you could end up paying for a second tow.

    If your car is being towed, make sure to get all of your personal belongings out of it first. If these items are stolen, they won't be covered under your auto insurance, plus they may be things you need later.

    6. Make notes.
    In addition to the contact info of any eyewitnesses, take a moment to jot down the time of day as well as the street or highway where the collision occurred and the nearest cross-street or exit -- your insurance company will ask you for these details. It's also a good idea to note the road conditions, the weather, the speed limit sign, traffic signals and accident results, such as skid marks, since your insurance company may ask that information as well.

    7. Take pictures.
    If you have a camera, even in a cell-phone, take pictures of the damage (or lack of it) of all the cars involved, as well as any pictures that can help the insurance company understand how the accident occurred and possibly determine fault or fraud. If possible, photograph each car by standing at an angle from each wheel, so one side and either the front or rear of the car is visible in the frame. Take close-up pictures of any vehicle damage (from this accident or not) and, if appropriate, of any people involved. You might also want to photograph the items you took notes on.

    8. Double check the other party's information.
    Everyone knows to exchange information, but do so by writing down the info yourself by copying it from the person's driver's license and insurance card versus having them write it down for you. As you copy the info, ask if this is the person's current address and also compare the vehicle description, including the VIN, from the insurance card to the car itself. Make note of any discrepancies.

    9. Call your insurance company.
    Even in a fender bender with minimal damage, you are going to want to call your insurance company (and, in some states, you may be required to do so). Repair costs for even a new bumper and taillight can easily exceed a low deductible, and even seemingly minor damage to a car's exterior can reveal underlying damage once a body shop looks at the car more carefully. Be very cautious if you opt to try to handle the repair costs between the parties involved, check your state laws on this and decide in advance how to handle it if your car repair costs go up if they find more extensive damage once they have your car apart or if a person decides they are injured later.

    10. Consider visiting a doctor.
    Even if you are not seriously hurt, it may be wise to see a doctor within the day or so after the crash. Soreness and stiffness can be signs of a more serious injury and if they are, it should be diagnosed and treated promptly. While it's not right to take advantage of the system, it is appropriate to ensure that any medical issues that are a result of the accident are taken care of by the at-fault party. You don't want to wait until months later to discover the lingering problem you have is a result of the car accident.

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    1 - 20 of 55 Comments
    Ronwarp7 Mar 12, 2011 8:14 PM
    NEVER STAY IN YOUR CAR IF IT'S IN A TRAFFIC LANE After an accident!!!!!!!!! I don't know who wrote this, but based on my experiences in actual accidents, this is bad advice folks! BEST: Turn on your emergency flashers, get your self and passengers OUT of the vehicle to the side of the road safely away from traffic, and call 911 AFTER you're all safe! I was in a very bad rear end "fender bender" and I ******* pretty hard, but able to pull over. The lady who hit me stopped dead in the middle of the 5 lane highway.......she was passed out (head hit the steering wheel) and her baby in an incorrectly secured baby seat was catapulted head first into the dash! I was the only person on scene....NOBODY would stop, even with her car in the middle of the highway (this was Miami, FL at 5:00 a.m.)!!!! So, literally 90 seconds after I got the woman out of the car (got the kid first....), another car hit her car!!! One guy was shot out of the windshield, and both cars spun all over and parts went flying all over the highway! Finally, traffic came to a total halt as there was no place to go with all of the car parts scattered across the entire roadway. Well, the point of all this story: IF I had followed the author of this article's advice, that woman and her child would have been dead!!! So, that's my 2-cents worth of advice! Drive safely and report those who jeopardize driver safety!
    Report This
    sm1shirley Jun 03, 2010 10:31 AM
    I live in Michigan - a state that has NO-FAULT insurance. My car was rear-ended by a suv on a service drive while I had stopped for on-coming traffic from the expressway. Because I drive an older car, I only have full liability coverage with a major insurance company. Until this accident, I didn't really understand the full meaning of no-fault. So even though the other driver is at fault, We each have to go through our own insurance companies. I don't have collision insurance so I don't have coverage even if the other person is at fault. Michigan law will only make the other driver's insurance company pay up to a maximum of $500.00 for damage to my car under these *************. If the car had been parked, his insurance company would have to pay for everything including a loaner vehicle. I'm now finding out that even if I had the collision coverage, my own insurance co would still have to pay the claim less my deductible and only up to the blue book value of my car. In this case, the damage exceeds the value of my car so I would have had to pay them to get my "totaled" car back. The extra premiums I would have to pay for full coverage, the deductible and compensation up to blue-book value doesn't make it worth it to pay for collision coverage. Seems like it's best not to drive an older car in a no-fault state. Anyone else have no-fault experience?
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    jbgiraffx May 25, 2010 6:10 AM
    If you live in New Jersey and have only had a fender bender, with no injuries or summonses issued, then Number 9 may be bad idea. In 2002-2003, to get insurance companies to return to insuring drivers in NJ, former jerk**f Governor McGreevey sold his soul, and ours, to the devil. The entire set of system rules were gutted in favor of making profits for the state and insurers and against consumer protections so that it often pays for you to NOT report to anyone's insurance. Just pay for the damage out of pocket, if you can afford to. Why? The assigned risk pool rules, that's why. There are two different sets of point systems in NJ now. The DMV set, which issues points for moving violations and some non-moving violations and the insurance points system. The insurance points system has several new rules enabling insurers to screw you if you're unaware of them. 1. Insurers can now place five insurance points on your record and call it an "accident" anytime they pay you more than $800 on a claim for any incident you report which occurred while driving, even if you did not have an accident or even if one was not your fault. 2. DMV points come off your record at the rate of three per year you drive safely, but insurance points only come off at the rate of one per year. So, it takes five years for those five accident points to come off your license. And 3. The number of insurance points needed on your record for you to lose your coverage and be thrown into the assigned risk pool was lowered from nine to seven. That means that, if you get a common two point ticket for say, not having your seatbelt on - and maybe it's the first ticket you've ever gotten in your life - and in that same year report a fender bender, even if NO OTHER VEHICLE WAS INVOLVED - and maybe it's the first "accident" you've ever had - for which you are paid $1000 on your claim, then you'll have seven insurance points on your record and will very likely be labeled a "risk" and lose your lower cost coverage. The first year premiums and surcharges in the assigned risk pool are nearly $5000/year, and drop by about $1000/year for the next four years. That means, if you were paying $1500/year for a safe driver policy, and had the year described above, that fender bender claim will actually cost you about $7000 more out of pocket over the next five years. Better to pay the $1000 out of pocket and keep your record and insurance policy clean. It's really only there now to protect you and others for serious accidents and/or injuries.
    Report This
    luvcedarpoint May 25, 2010 6:08 AM
    Last October I had just merged on to I-71S when a semi whipped around me, then right in front of me clipping the front of my truck. I pulled over and immediately called the police. Semi never did stop. My front left tire and wheel took the blunt of the hit, my tire was going flat. I called police (hello I thought you were supposed to do that?) State guy came, I told him what happened and asked if he could call a tow truck for me. Tow truck came, put on my spare tire and wheel, truck was driveable home. Highway patrol gave ME a ticket for failure to yield. I couldnt believe that. I asked him how I could get the ticket when the semi didnt stop? He never did answer me. I tried to fight the ticket but since the town the accident was in (Ashland Ohio) only had 1 freaking traffic violation attorney I could never get them to call me so I got stuck paying the stupid $109.00 ticket. The accident is on my Carfax report and officer put on there that the truck was towed. I got screwed all the way around that night. So remember, if you get into an accident and you know it wasnt your fault and the other person flees the scene youd be better off not calling the police...just call for a tow and file a report with your insurance co
    Report This
    santee03 May 25, 2010 5:42 AM
    A rear end accident is not automatically the fault of the person behind the vehicle rear ended. There are incidents where a vehicle in a multi-lane road abruptly changes lanes so now the vehicle in front is several feet in front of the other vehicle and hits their brakes. There is not enough stopping distance for the following vehicle to stop. If the vehicle in front of you changes lanes and hits brakes, it doesnt matter how good of a driver you are, you are going to rear end it. The vehicle in front is guilty of unsafe lane change.
    Report This
    dbtag May 25, 2010 3:50 AM
    So how do you stay in the car with your seat belt on AND put out road flares or a "triangle"?
    Report This
    laplaygirl310 May 25, 2010 3:26 AM
    I just witnessed an accident today. I stopped gave the lady who wasnt at fault my number, Took my mother to work and came back to the scene. The cop was there at that time gave him my statement and later that day had an insurnace agent call me. I found out at the end of the call It was the Mans insurance and she told me he was at fault. Im glad i was able to help
    Report This
    gr8bsn May 25, 2010 3:25 AM
    Re: purleyaddicted... What state do you live in? In AZ, you can't even get a plate without proof on insurance. If your insurance lapses for any reason, they are required by state law to notify the state. You are then required to send in proof of your new insurance or you must surrender your plates. A cop will know in three seconds if you have insurance or not by running your tags. Also, as I mentioned before, making people put insurance company stickers on their car is forcing drivers to give free advertising to whomever they are insured with (for free).
    Report This
    gr8bsn May 25, 2010 3:18 AM
    Auto insurance company stickers on car? My car is not a billboard and unless my insurance company wants to pay me to advertise on private property (my motor vehicle which is paid in full), they can dream on.
    Report This
    catsofzona2 May 25, 2010 3:18 AM
    Wish this had come out awhile ago. Was stopped at a red light for about a minute had a guy who fell asleep hit the car doing 45+. Ended up okay but this info definately could have helped!!!
    Report This
    gr8bsn May 25, 2010 3:10 AM
    GET OUT OF THE ROAD! I see too many idiots exchanging their info in the middle of traffic when their cars can be moved and no one is injured. You're not going to get charged for a hit and run if you're exchanging info in a parking lot instead of the left turn lane of a busy intersection.
    Report This
    serab May 25, 2010 2:37 AM
    My first reaction is to tell you, don't sit in your car. DON'T admit or deny fault. Do say ANYHTING. Especially if the other car hit you--in the rear, no matter what you do, it's his fault. Tailgating is illegal. It is your responsibility to maintain a safe distance--I think that's the same in all states. What if there is going to be fire--get out of there? What if your cars are likely to be hit by someone else. Chain reaction on 195 West (RI/MA State lines) at rush hour...... If you are hurt, YOU call 911, some cars have programs like In-Star and it will have already called 911 for you.
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    snake28281 May 25, 2010 2:26 AM
    scottcupp07-My heart goes out to you;Simply inexcusable to get behind the wheel under influence of drugs/alcohol-I have no tolerance for it and will/have reported more than 1 driver in my lifetime as a matter of safety to the general public
    Report This
    snake28281 May 25, 2010 2:20 AM
    Had a driver who wreaked of alcohol roll back from his pickup truck into my car-which I had just had painted in a body shop 4 weeks prior-this was in a traffic jam at rush hour-the state highway patrol was called-the driver of the pickup who wreaked of alcohol was not arrested nor was a breathalizer even taken-Imagine That-he tried to say that the front of my car already had scrape marks on it-but I did have receipts of recent paint job and also took pics at the scene-initially his insurance company did not want to pay-but I told them I would take it to small claims court-the insurance company settled and I got my car repainted and scrapes taken off-bottom line is though that a breathalizer should have been taken or the driver arrested for driving under the influence-I had to pursue my case-I was in the right-the hard way, but if I know I am in the right I will pursue at any and all costs
    Report This
    scottcupp07 May 25, 2010 1:53 AM
    Unfortunately my parents did not have to worry about anything after their accident... They died..but it was a little more than a fender bender... actually a lot more... A car doing 100 mph crossed over the center divider and went airborne and landed on the hood of mom and dad's car... The b*tch driving the other car was on drugs... She is a quadriplegic now... probably a good thing that I have never met her... If I did I would definitely kill her. Stay off drugs or alcohol when you get behind the wheel of a car... I know its off the subject but I felt it needed to be said... If you elect to drink and drive or get high and drive...You are a piece of crap and the consequences will not be good... For you or your families... stay clean...Stay sober... Do the right thing..
    Report This
    chachasue May 25, 2010 1:47 AM
    I read all this advice to CALL 911. From your cell phone? In the car? This is illegal in CT and MA.
    Report This
    myrefiection4u May 25, 2010 1:29 AM
    Bloggers aren't journalist, Motor insurers now are they? Nope Only Progressive is on call 24/7 the rest are asleep. Why would any insurance representative be in a blog chat when they need to get up in 5 to 7 hrs. There's a lot of fake wanna bees on here tonight putting their 2 cents in every blog story. Oh, i'm this i'm that hush, you don't know a thing save you breath for you blow up date.
    Report This
    amzingrc May 25, 2010 1:27 AM
    I was sitting at a red light, behind 2 cars & out of the blue...never saw it coming...I was slammed by a van. I laid on the brakes with both feet so as not to hit the cars in front of me. I ********** hard that my ball cap (which had a long pony tail pulled thru the back) was knocked off, left hanging on the pony tail. My jeep country was really smashed, even requiring a new tail gate and much more. I recall looking immediately back and most certain he was on a cell phone. When the police arrived, he first attempted to say the light had changed and I was moving forward. I did have the presence of mind to point to the LONG skid marks he had left when he looked up and noticed cars stopped in front of me. The driver was ticketed. My mistake was not having the police officer check his cell phone history and MOST OF ALL, refusing an ambulance. While his insurance paid for the repairs and the worst rental car I have ever seen, the repairs tooks forever AND I did suffer C6 & C7 area damage to my spine. His insurance man actually told me that I would of received not only full medical reimbursement for medical costs but time (repairs were so drawn out), pain and suffering & certain payment for permanent injury had I ony gone to the hospital. Forget the "go to the doctor within a few days," take the ambulance. I didn't feel I was seriously injured at the time and can't stand those who take advantage of the system. Just go, whether you think you need to or not. Naturally the insurance agent below would disrespect this article...aren't they about as respected as lawyers & used car sales people? In fact, I & many people I know, have been screwed by insurance agents more than a lawyer or used car sales person. No need to scam the system, that takes you below these peoples level...but do go to the hospital. Even if you are okay, the other persons insurance must pay for the charges to find out.
    Report This
    jaguar8450 May 25, 2010 1:26 AM
    The best one, balls on ass I ever heard is when a driver sitting in a parked vehicle facing south, throws her car into reverse, slamming the rear end of her entire vehicle into the passenger side of a van that was facing east. And then, after that nonsense, the driver claimed that the van that was facing east stopped by south bound traffic, they rear ended her south bound facing car.
    Report This
    striperted May 25, 2010 12:56 AM
    Have been an insurance agent for almost 49 years..... this articler is an example of the BS written by the now "journalists" who have a forum and should be given an enema.... the author is full of pure crap....
    Report This
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