Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Jun 24, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Normally the first step after a car accident is calling the police
  • After you contact the police, get the other driver’s insurance information
  • If you are injured, go straight to the hospital and wait for the police to come to you
  • The at-fault driver will be responsible for any damages that occurred during the accident

What you should do if you are in a car accident that isn’t your fault will greatly depend on the seriousness of the accident.

If it is severe, then your first step will be to call 911. If it isn’t severe, then you may want to step out and check to make sure everyone is okay and then call the police.

Not every car accident is an emergency, but it is difficult to determine whether or not you are in a real emergency situation right after an accident occurs.

In most cases, you should call the police before you do anything else.

Your first call should not be to your insurance company! After you talk to the police, you can talk with the at-fault driver in the accident.

You can compare car insurance quotes right now by entering your ZIP code above!

What do I do if the at-fault driver in the accident is hostile?

Sometimes accidents can end up being more volatile if the other drivers in the accident are screaming, yelling, or telling you that it is your fault when you know that it isn’t.

If this happens, get back into your vehicle if it is safe to do so, lock the doors, and wait for the police to arrive!

There is no point in arguing with the other driver if this happens. The bottom line is you could end up making a tense situation worse by engaging in an argument with the person.

The police will be able to help sort things out, so you don’t need that extra stress.

If the other driver is not injured and is not hostile, exchange insurance information so that you can have the information that you need to file your claim.

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What do I do when the police arrive?

Once the police arrive on the scene of an accident, they are going to ask each driver what happened.

Typically this happens separately since the police want to try to find out the truth. Be as accurate as possible when it comes to describing what has happened.

If your story and the story of the at-fault driver don’t coincide, then the police will talk to a few witnesses.

They may do this anyway if the scene of the accident doesn’t make it clear who was at fault in the accident; they need to do this so they know to which one of you to give the ticket.

You will want to get a business card from any police officers on the scene to keep with the insurance information that you collect from the at-fault driver.

If possible, ask for a copy of the police report before they leave the scene. It depends on what state you live in whether or not this is possible.

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What if I am injured in the accident and can’t wait for the police?

If you have a serious injury, you will not be in trouble if you leave in an ambulance before the police arrive.

The police will come to the hospital and interview you about the accident to determine what has happened.

If you do have to leave the scene, the police will rely more heavily on witness accounts of the accident because they can’t only take the statement of the other driver as the truth.

How long will it take for the police to arrive at the scene of the accident?

Police response time will vary depending on where you live, what time of day the accident occurs, and whether there are any injuries.

Any accidents with injuries take priority over any other type of accident.

If there are no injuries and your vehicles are not blocking the road, it can take several hours for the police to come.

They aren’t going to leave you waiting while they sit around and drink coffee, but they aren’t going to leave a murder scene for a minor traffic accident either.

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Whose car insurance should pay for the damages in the accident?

The at-fault driver is always responsible for the damages caused in an accident unless you live in a no-fault state.

If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t carry enough coverage to cover the damage, then your insurance may pay for the difference if you carry underinsured/uninsured coverage on your policy.

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