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People exiting vehicles after an accident

What to Do
After an Automobile Accident

If you have ever been in an automobile accident, you know how chaotic and confusing the minutes and hours immediately following it are.  You are contending with adrenalin and confusion, and probably in pain.  The people around you may be panicking.  Knowing in advance what you should do can help you stay calm and make good decisions that facilitate the best possible outcome for everyone involved.


Below is an outline of the steps you should take directly after a car accident:


  1. Stay Calm


    This may seem self-evident and simple, but, in reality, it can be extremely challenging in the aftermath of an accident.  Take a few deep breaths, tell yourself that you will be okay, and get your bearings.  Avoid arguing with anyone else involved in the accident – the police can handle any conflicts.


  2. Move Your Vehicle to the Side of the Road


    If you can safely do so, move out of the roadway and onto the side of the road.  It is very important that you do not leave the scene of the accident, but moving out of the path of oncoming traffic will help to avoid further collisions.


  3. Turn on your Hazard Lights


    Whether or not you can move your vehicle, turning on your hazard lights alerts oncoming traffic to your presence and your situation.


  4. Check for Injuries


    First check yourself and then your passengers for any injuries.  If you have any doubt as to the severity of an injury, if there is any uncontrolled bleeding, or if anyone received a blow to the head and seems withdrawn or confused, do not hesitate to call 911.  After you have ascertained the condition of the occupants of your vehicle, check on those in the other vehicle(s), regardless who was at fault.  Render aid if necessary.


  5. File a Car Accident Report with the Police


    No matter how minor the accident seems, it is important to file a report with the police.  Oftentimes, there is medical and physical damage which only becomes apparent in the hours and days following the incident – sometimes a significant amount.  Also, a police report is the best way to determine liability later and it helps the insurance companies process your claims.


    Always be honest and detailed when describing the accident to the police.  Include such information as the names of streets or roads, directions each vehicle was traveling, the names of all drivers involved and of your passengers, etc.  The police report will be the best record of what actually happened.


  6. Gather Information


    When shaken by an accident, it can be difficult to remember to record details and get information which would help you later.  Particularly if you are in a situation where you cannot make a police report, record as much information as you can.  Do not assume you will remember information in the aftermath of a traumatic event; even a minor accident causes a surge of adrenalin which may make recalling information later more difficult.  It is much safer to write everything down.


    Make sure to obtain the following:


    1. Information about every individual involved in the accident, including:
      • name
      • address
      • phone numbers
      • insurance information
      • the VIN numbers of each vehicle involved (often used by insurance companies instead of license plate numbers)
      • license plate numbers of each vehicle


    2. Details about the scene of the accident, including:
      • the street on which the accident occurred
      • any cross streets
      • as detailed a description of the incident as you can recall
      • names and telephone numbers of witnesses
      • names of all passengers


    3. The reference number identifying the police report.


    Also, if you have a camera, even if you only have one on your phone, take pictures of the scene, the damage to your vehicle, and any visible injuries you or others in your vehicle may have sustained.  If lighting conditions are poor, be certain to take more photographs the following day.  The old adage is true: a picture really is worth a thousand words.

  7. Contact Your Insurance Company


    It is important that you notify your insurance company without delay so that an adjuster can be assigned to begin processing your claim.

  8. Contact Your Attorney


    Even for a seemingly minor accident, physical damages may take days to become apparent.  It is important for you to contact an experienced personal injury attorney such as Gary Stewart Seflin as soon as possible so that he can gather information while it is fresh in your mind.  As your attorney, Mr. Seflin will also help you find reputable doctors and specialists if necessary, deal with the insurance companies on your behalf, and eventually proceed to arbitration or litigation if it is in your best interest.

There are many ways that insurance companies can avoid paying valid claims, and the only way to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve is by retaining an attorney with a proven track record such as Gary Stewart Seflin.



If you have further questions about this or any other aspect of Pennsylvania Automobile Insurance, please do not hesitate to contact Gary Stewart Seflin.

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