Getting into a car accident is one of the most stressful situations that can happen. In addition to the trauma of the accident, it is likely one or more people involved suffered a serious injury. Those involved in a car accident may feel confused or in shock and may not know what to do next.

Regardless of fault, drivers can take several steps immediately following an accident. This checklist will help accurately assess the damage and provide the required documents to determine liability.

Post-accident checklist

Following these steps after an accident will help drivers obtain all the information necessary to process a claim and establish liability:

  1. Pull over to safety and call 911: Drivers involved in an accident should immediately pull over to a safer area and call 911. Injured parties will need medical attention as soon as possible. Prioritize giving the emergency operator the basic facts: location, a description of the accident scene and the injuries.
  2. Collect evidence: Exchange information with all involved parties including vehicle and insurance information. Take pictures and videos and note any unique road conditions.
  3. Report the accident to law enforcement: If police are on the scene, involved parties are exempt from reporting the incident. Otherwise, law enforcement must receive a police report within four days.
  4. Inform the insurance company: Auto insurance policies require that drivers report accidents as soon as possible. They will need to start their investigation and determine liability before paying any damages or medical bills. Many insurance companies have apps to help carriers more easily report accidents.
  5. Consider legal representation: Most insurance companies prefer to settle car accident suits out of court. Settlements are not only confidential but provide faster resolutions with quicker payouts. Many people involved in a car accident suit find success hiring the services of a local lawyer to help ensure a settlement provides adequate restitution, or to ensure comprehensive representation in a courtroom.

Do not wait to act after an accident

Car accidents are also subject to a state’s statute of limitations. For Washington, drivers must file a claim within three years, but waiting will likely make the process harder. The sooner one acts, the faster they can put it behind them.