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Travel tips: What to do after a car accident

Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro

Managing Editor

Image via Artyom Kulakov/Pexels

November and December are, without a doubt, the busiest months of the year for traveling. More people are on the road, traveling from college to home to their families, as well as cross country to visit family and friends for the holiday season. This would mean that there is an increased risk for delays and accidents, especially on the roads.

If you are driving by yourself, do you know what to do in case of an emergency? What happens if you are hit by a car? Personally, I was always told to call my parents. As I got older, my family dynamics changed and I began traveling farther from home, I could still call my mom but she was not always in a position to come and “rescue” me.

The most important thing for you to understand at this moment is that, no matter how serious the car accident is, your body will be going into a state of shock. It is important to maintain your composure and to not say anything incriminating such as, “oh, I’m sorry,” as this is an admission of fault and can be used against you later on.

The following steps should be taken immediately following a car accident, regardless of fault:

1. Get to a safe location. This could mean driving your car, if it is drivable, to the side of the road or to a parking lot, or this could mean physically getting out of the car and walking to a safer location.

2. Call the police; dial 911, tell the dispatcher where you are and what type of services you need. It is standard practice for 911 operators to send ambulances as well. Even if you don’t think you are injured, it would be in your best interest to have an EMT look you over, as this can work in your favor later on. It is best practice to see a doctor after an accident anyway, but if you are not severely injured you can wait to see your doctor or go to the hospital later on.

3. If other witnesses or the other people involved in the accident are also calling to report the accident, that’s great; there can never be too many calls. Don’t think you are “flooding the system.” If safe to do so, this could also be a good opportunity to call your parents and any other relevant people. This part is optional, especially since the only thing you will be able to communicate is that you are okay and safe.

4. Take pictures or a video of the accident while waiting for the police to arrive. Make sure to get images of your vehicle, and the other vehicle, or vehicles, involved. If you had needed to move locations, make sure to safely get footage of the road you were driving on, any debris left in the road, any skid marks or other road damage. If there was a stop sign or a traffic light, document it. If necessary, pretend you are living a game of Clue — look for anything and everything that may have played a factor. You cannot over document anything. Also, be sure to obtain the names and contact information for any witnesses.

5. Once the police arrive, they will assess the situation. They will make out a police report for all parties involved, so make sure you have your license and insurance information handy. You will be given a copy of the report, or information on where to find the report online. Everyone’s information will be on the report, so don’t worry about taking down names and insurance information. The police will also help you coordinate a tow truck if needed. Remember, it is Rhode Island law that you have the right to take your vehicle to whatever repair shop you choose and while it may be a little awkward, it's totally okay to ride with the tow truck driver.

6. File a claim with your insurance company. Most insurance companies allow claims to be filed through their apps, which simplifies the process immensely. You will be told via the app what information you need to submit. Consider calling a lawyer. Dealing with your car insurance company, and those of the others involved can be tricky, confusing and very overwhelming, take it from me — I have totaled two cars.

Do note that steps three, four and five are null if you are taken from the scene by ambulance. The police will find you and contact you. You will have the opportunity to voice your story. If you are injured in any way, keep movement to a minimum until EMTs arrive. They will assess you and help you get the care you need.

Keep every email and letter, and keep record of any phone calls from insurance companies. Keep all hospital records and bills, and submit them to your lawyer.

Above all, keep calm and take care of yourself. Self-care after an accident is vital to recovery.


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