Getting involved in car accidents is a nightmarish experience that nobody wants to go through. Despite how careful a driver you might consider yourself to be, other drivers might lose control of their vehicle and end up colliding with yours. So what should you do?

In Hollywood, the protagonist always seems to figure out what they have to do after a collision. That hardly ever happens in real life.

The truth is you’ll be feeling all sorts of emotions during that initial shock. You definitely won’t be in the proper state of mind to file a crash report. Until that initial shock passes, you’re better off not doing anything so you won’t hurt your case or claim for insurance.

But after a minute or two of composing yourself, here’s what you should be doing when you’re involved in a car accident.

Step 1. Check for Injuries

The first thing you have to do is to stay calm and make sure that everyone involved is safe. Step out of your vehicle to determine if you’ve suffered any injuries. If you are able, check on the others for any injuries they might have suffered as well as the extent of those injuries.

If someone is in need of emergency services, call 911 immediately. While waiting for emergency services to come, set up early warning signs a few feet away from the crash site to alert oncoming traffic. Perform first aid if you can but make sure you don’t move those that have suffered back or head injuries.

Step 2. Survey the Extent of Damage and Document the Crash

After checking on everyone involved, it’s time to gauge the amount of damage caused during the accident. Identify the type of vehicles involved in the crash and take a look at their license plate. Take careful note of the color and make of each vehicle.

If you have your phone with you, take photos of all the vehicles involved and all the debris. Although law enforcement and/or emergency responders will take pictures of the scene for their reports, having your own photos with you will make sure your rights are protected. This will also be helpful for filing insurance claims later on.

Once you’re done taking photos, you may now move your vehicle to the side of the road, if possible. This is a necessary step when the accident blocks the road, preventing the flow of traffic in the area.

Step 3. Contact the Authorities and File an Accident Report

Whether the accident causes significant damage to property and/or injury or not, you must make it a point to involve the police. Having police officers present at the site of the accident gives you the opportunity to obtain a police crash report from the area that the crash occurred in, such as a Houston Police Department crash report. The great thing about these reports is that they are available online, and you can search for them afterward using various parameters, in case you don’t have them all. It also ensures that the events of the accident are recorded without any bias from either party.

Once the police officers arrive at the scene, obtain their name and badge number. This will be helpful when obtaining a copy of the police report later on. As you discuss the details of the accident, always give an accurate account of the event. However, only stick to the facts. Never discuss fault or blame since that will be determined later.

In some cases, police officers are unable to go to the scene of the accident. For Houston police, they are not required to show up at a scene unless someone has been injured, property damage is estimated to be over $1,000, and the other party is intoxicated, doesn’t have insurance, or attempts to flee the scene. When that happens, you may need to head to the nearest police station and file the report yourself. This is where the photos and details you took will come in handy.

Photo by Sunyu Kim on Pexels

In Houston, the Houston Police Department crash report is an important document that can ultimately determine liability during an accident.

Step 4. Exchange Information with Involved Parties

Although it may seem unnecessary at this point after your discussion with the police officer, you will still need to talk with the other parties to collect some important pieces of information. According to Texas law, drivers involved in a vehicular accident are required to provide their:
  • Full name
  • Address
  • Registration number of the vehicle involved in the accident
  • Name of the insurance company and policy number
  • Driver’s license
If witnesses are present, make sure that you collect information from them, as well. You will need their name and contact information just in case you require their help during the investigation.

Step 5. File a Claim with Your Insurance Provider

In every accident, it is paramount that you give your insurance provider a call right away. They will help you determine the extent of the damages and injuries caused and help you with insurance claims.

Assuming that the other party is at fault, their policy will cover the costs of repair for all damages incurred up to their policy’s limit. Your medical bills, however, are covered by your own policy under the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) clause of your policy as mandated by the State of Texas.

To protect your rights during the insurance claim process, make sure that you don’t sign any document they make you sign unless you know what it means and what it’s for. They may also attempt to acquire a recorded statement from you, which you must also decline. Anything you say may be twisted and used against you.

You can never really prepare for an accident. But when you’re involved in one, just remember that there are proper steps that you can take to make sure your rights are protected.