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Five Steps to Take if You’ve Been in a Car Accident

January 22nd, 2019

Did you know in 2020, there were nearly 105,000 reportable traffic crashes that resulted in the injury of 60,248 people in the state of Pennsylvania? *

Distracted drivers, slippery road conditions, poor visibility, mechanical failures – there’s a whole host of reasons why accidents happen, but the result is the same: an accident occurred. What do you do now?

After an accident, emotions and adrenaline can run high and it may be difficult to remember what to do. Below are the five most important steps after you’ve been in a car accident:

  • Stop immediately and check for injuries
  • Call the police (and ambulance if necessary)
  • Document the scene
  • Exchange information
  • Contact the attorneys at Dale E. Anstine

Stop Immediately, Check for Injuries & Call the Police

First and foremost, check for injuries and call for help if needed.

  • If you’ve had a minor accident, pull off the road and focus on getting out of traffic. Once you’re out of the line of traffic, turn on your hazard lights. If you’re unable to safely move your car without doing further damage, at minimum, turn on your hazard lights.
  • Call the Police. Once all vehicles involved are safely out of the way on the side of the road, contact the police. Cooperate with law enforcement. The responding officer is there to sort out the details of what happened and ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Document the Scene

Let cooler heads prevail. Be courteous and polite with other drivers and law enforcement, but do not speak to anyone else (other than the responding officers and/or medical personnel) or sign anything. What you do and say at the scene can have an impact on your case. In the moments after an accident, due to a rush of emotion and adrenaline, your brain may not always capture all the details of what just occurred.

When you’re documenting the scene with photos, be as detailed as possible. Photos of the weather conditions, surrounding area (including street signs and recognizable landmarks), close-up and wide-angle shots of any damage to all vehicles involved, license plates and VINs of all cars – these are all important pieces of information to gather. Supplement any photos with detailed notes: the direction each car was headed, how fast each car was traveling, the road and weather conditions, the name and insurance information of all involved drivers.

Exchange Information

Get the names and contact information of everyone involved in the accident, including any witnesses, along with a copy of the police report. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the most important information to exchange includes:

  • Full name and contact information
  • Insurance company and policy number
  • Driver’s license and license plate number
  • Color, make and model of vehicle
  • Location of the accident

Before an Accident Happens – Be Prepared

Remember, there are also steps you can take before an accident occurs to help be better prepared for the unpredictable.

  • Keep a vehicle safety kit in your car.
  • Keep ID cards, vehicle registrations and emergency contacts handy in your glovebox. Have a smartphone? Download digital copies so you can access them quickly when the need arises.
  • Speaking of mobile phones, keep a charger handy. If you’re involved in an accident, a phone with a drained battery isn’t very useful.
  • Understand your insurance policy and your rights. It’s important for you to know the terms of your coverage – what’s covered, what’s not and what additional out-of-pocket costs you could face. Contact your insurance agent and ask lots of questions. If you’re still unclear, reach out to one of our attorneys. We’ll review your policy to help ensure you understand your coverage – free of charge.

Contact Us at Dale E. Anstine

Following an accident, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Dale E. Anstine as soon as possible. Accident law is complicated and it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side. We’ll meet you in your home, in the hospital or in our offices – wherever it’s most convenient for you. When you have a personal injury attorney from Dale E. Anstine on your side, we will fight for your rights to fair compensation. Consultations are always free, we’re available 24/7 and there’s never any fee unless we win for you.


* Pennsylvania Department of Transportation report (PDF download)