No matter how good of a driver you are, it’s still possible to end up in a car accident. Nobody ever leaves the house expecting to get into a car accident, but for thousands of people each year, that’s exactly what happens. According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, there were 312,172 reported car accidents in the state of Michigan in 2016. Since car accidents happen so unexpectedly, even a minor one can be extremely overwhelming.
After a car accident, one of the best things you can do is try to stay calm. Car accidents are very startling so this isn’t always easy to do, but it’s important to remain in control of the situation and keep a clear mind so that you’re able to remember as many details as possible.
Next, you need to get an idea of how severe the accident is. Is it just a minor fender bender or was it serious enough to cause injuries to yourself or the passengers in your car? If you or one of your passengers is injured, call 911 immediately. If you have any symptoms of an injury at all, even if they seem insignificant at the time, see a doctor ASAP. If you’re able to move your car, try to move the shoulder of the road or another safe location to avoid possibly being hit again. If your car has been damaged to the point that you’re not able to move it, turn on your hazard lights.
Once you’re sure it’s safe to get out of your car, check on the occupants of the other car and call for medical attention if anyone needs it. When you talk to the driver of the other car, try to get as much information from them as possible, including their name, address, contact information, and license plate number. Just be careful not to say anything that might possibly be seen as admitting fault.
One thing you definitely don’t want to forget to get is the other driver’s insurance information. Car accidents in Michigan are handled a little differently than they are in most other states because Michigan is a no-fault state, meaning that each person involved in a car accident goes through their own insurance for any property damage or medical expenses. But according to Goodwin & Scieszka, there are some circumstances in which you can go after the other driver’s insurance for damages, so it might be good information to have, depending on what your exact situation is.
A lot of people are unclear about whether or not they need to file a police report after a car accident. Even when an accident seems minor, it’s still a good idea to report it to the police because it’s not always easy to judge the full extent of the damage or injuries right away. Depending on how busy the police are, they might not be able to come to the scene of a car accident that doesn’t involve any injuries or a significant amount of property damage. Even if an officer isn’t able to come out to take a report, you can still go to the police station and make a report after the fact.
While you’re still at the scene, try to record as many details as possible. Pictures and/or videos can be very important to have, but don’t forget to document things like exactly where the accident occurred, when it happened, and even what the weather conditions were like. If there are any witnesses nearby, get their contact information. Some auto insurance companies now have mobile apps that include tools to help record information at the scene of an accident. Don’t worry about taking too many notes — this is a situation where it’s better to have information you don’t need than it is to find out later that you’re missing an important bit of information.
Once all these initial steps have been taken care of, immediately notify your insurance company about the accident. If you were injured, be sure to keep detailed records of things like which doctors you see, the treatment you receive, and any medications you take. If you were injured to the extent that you want to file a lawsuit against the other driver’s insurance company, remember that in the state of Michigan, you have three years to file your suit.
Angela Petteys is a writer and lifelong resident of the Metro Detroit area. In addition to writing, she also enjoys gardening, antiquing, and exploring new places around Michigan.
*Photo courtesy of Traffic Digital Agency