As a responsible driver, you take extra precautions whenever you sit behind the wheel. You put away your phone so you don’t have distractions. You always signal before turning or changing lanes. And you keep to the speed limit as precisely as possible.
But not everyone follows the same driving practices you do. When other drivers text their friends, reach for items in their back seat, or put on makeup as they commute, they put you at risk for a serious accident.
Should the worst happen, you need to be ready to take action. If you have your smartphone on hand, save the following numbers to your contact list.
1. Emergency Dispatch or the Police
No matter how minor you think the accident is, your first step should be to pull over, assess injuries, and call the authorities.
If your injuries (or the other driver’s) look serious, don’t hesitate to call 911 or emergency dispatch. They can walk you through first aid responses and keep you calm until the ambulance arrives.
But if the accident seems minor, with no noticeable injuries, you can simply call the police to report the accident. When they arrive on the scene, cooperate with them fully, but don’t admit fault or blame other drivers for the accident.
If the police can’t come to the accident site (which is likely if no injuries or serious damage occurred), you can file an accident report through your nearest DMV.
2. Your Insurance Provider
After an accident, you and any other drivers involved will need to exchange insurance information. Gather details such as:
- First and last name
- Phone number
- Insurance company
- Policy number
- License plate
- License number
Remember that neither the police nor the insurance company will need your Social Security number. If the other driver asks for that detail, you don’t have to give it to them.
Once you have all the information, call up your insurance company and let them know about the accident. Give the facts as you saw them, and explain the extent of your injuries. Do not admit to fault, and don’t make any guesses about your speed, distance, or traffic violations. If the insurance company finds a discrepancy in your report and the police report, they might deny you coverage for the accident.
3. Tow Company or Mechanic
Your car can absorb a great deal of impact and still remain functional. But the longer you drive in a damaged vehicle, the more you risk additional accidents and the more damage you inflict on the surviving parts.
If you can drive your vehicle away from the accident, call your mechanic as soon as possible and schedule an appointment for repairs. A fender bender may seem simple at first, but it could affect everything from your headlights to your hood to your air conditioning. You may also want a professional to touch up the paint and buff out any scratches.
If your vehicle suffered damage beyond repair, call a tow truck to pull your vehicle to a salvage lot and sell it for parts.
4. Your Employer
Did your accident occur during your commute to work? Did it happen while you were running errands for your employer? Were you driving a company car at the time of the accident? If you answer yes to any of these questions, your boss will need to know a few details about the accident and how it affects your performance.
When you inform your employer, he or she can help you schedule time off to recover or file for worker’s compensation as needed. Depending on your injuries, your boss may need to temporarily reassign you to lighter tasks until you’ve had a chance to heal.
5. Your Family Doctor
During a serious accident, you know immediately when something’s wrong. Cuts, injuries, broken bones, and bruises require urgent medical attention, and you know when you should rush to the emergency room for help.
But during a minor accident, you may come away feeling shaken but fine. However, some injuries (such as whiplash) don’t show up until several days after the fact. If you suffer any lingering damage after a car accident, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. And during the examination, ask your doctor to document any and all injuries he or she treats.
6. A Personal Injury Lawyer
No matter if you suffered an injury or if someone else plans to sue you for their injuries, you’ll want an experienced lawyer available to defend your case. Talk to a personal injury lawyer about your car accident, and give him or her the same details you provided the police, your insurance company, and your doctor. Your lawyer can then let you know whether you have a case, and he or she can present the facts in your favor.
Feel free to call everyone on this list after a car accident. Though you don’t have to dial all of these people from the crash site, you should try to contact most of them within 24 to 72 hours after your accident.