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Collision course: What to do after an accident

Updated March 30, 2023, at 12:25 p.m. CT

Collisions can be stressful and scary. And it’s sometimes hard to remember what to do after an accident.

But staying calm can save you money in the long run. Insurance experts advise following some simple steps to help protect you when you file an auto insurance claim.

“Emotions are high during an accident, and a lot of things are going through your head,” said Tim Bemis, insurance services regional manager at Dupaco Insurance Services. “The first thing you need to do is stay calm.”

Use this checklist for follow-up tasks after a car accident:

Pick up the phone

Call the police, especially if there appear to be injuries. You’ll also want to report the accident to your insurance agent.

File a claim with Dupaco Insurance Services >

Verify everyone’s info

Request and verify identification from everyone involved.

Write down the names and contact information for all of the drivers, passengers and witnesses. Then verify that information by asking to see their driver’s license.

Also request the other drivers’ up-to-date insurance company name and policy number. And record the make, model and license plate number of all vehicles involved.

“The biggest mistake I see people make is they exchange information, but they don’t verify it. We all lead busy lives, and we’re all in a hurry,” Bemis said. “But what often happens is the phone number they gave you is no good or they fake-named you.”

Don’t talk about it

It might be difficult, but here’s what not to say at an accident scene: Don’t talk about the collision with other drivers. Only discuss the car accident with your insurance agent and the police.

Don’t admit fault

Don’t admit fault with other drivers in an accident. Leave that for the insurance companies to work out. You might be blameless.

But if the other driver admits fault, write it down–on an old receipt, napkin or whatever you can find–and ask the driver to sign, initial and date it.

“Inevitably when the time starts slipping away and the other driver has a chance to think about it, the story changes,” Bemis said. “When you have them sign off on it, it makes it harder for the story to change later on.”

Document the accident scene

Smart phones can be an invaluable tool, especially following a collision.

If possible, use your phone to photograph and document the accident scene.

Download this free, printable accident checklist and keep it in your vehicle in case you ever need it. It can help you remember follow-up tasks after an accident when things feel stressful.

Watch: Tim Bemis explain how to handle a vehicle accident >

Be prepared

While on the road, it’s also important to remember the leading causes of fender-benders: Back-up accidents in parking lots and rear-end collisions at intersections.

“Knowing these are the two big causes of small accidents can help drivers be more aware of the possibility of that happening and encourage them to pay more attention,” Bemis said. “They’re small-dollar amount accidents, but they will raise your premiums down the road and are extremely preventable.”

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