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Do You Know What Steps to Take After a Car Accident?

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Special thanks to Capital One for sponsoring today’s post.

My teen daughter was T-boned this summer and we quickly learned what steps to take after a car accident. You can get back on the road safely, confidently, and affordably if you follow a few simple steps.

a collage of a car accident scene with title text reading What to Do After an Accident

For me, it was important to help my daughter conquer her fear. Thankfully, the accident happened right in front of our house so I was able to be with her immediately to help her through the entire process. Here is a picture of her accident:


At the Scene

Make sure everyone is okay. People matter more than any material thing. No matter whose fault the accident is, make sure everyone affected by the accident is okay or being taken care of. Thankfully, my daughter only had minor injuries from the broken glass.


Call the authorities. Traditional advice dictates that you don’t need to report an accident unless there is personal injury or over $1000 in damage. However, there are some other things to consider before blindly following this advice.

In our case, we live on a dangerous, winding road where many people disregard the speed limit. Despite many calls to the Department of Transportation, we’ve been told that not enough accidents have been reported on our road to warrant additional signs, a reduced speed limit, or increased monitoring. Every accident (even minor ones) establish evidence of areas that might be dangerous.

Another reason you should consider calling the police is to have an investigation completed while all of the evidence is readily available. Often, injuries don’t surface until days after an accident. At that point, it’s too late to gather information and evidence to help you file claims.

Direct traffic around accident. Don’t let one accident contribute to even more. Turn on your hazard lights and instruct the other driver to do the same. Use flares to alert other drivers to the accident ahead. If possible, enlist the help of bystanders to direct traffic around the accident.

Take photographs of vehicles, damage, surrounding area. In case of a dispute later, you’ll want to have pictures to show exactly what damage occurred and what the conditions were at the time of the accident. I took this picture from my daughter’s accident to capture the wet roads and the lack of skid marks.


Talk to witnesses. If you followed my earlier advice to notify the police, they will take care of this step. If, however, you decided not to contact authorities, get the contact information from witnesses so you can follow up later if needed.

Exchange information. Before you leave the scene of the accident, make sure you have the other driver’s information. You’ll need the other driver’s:

  • Name
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Phone Number
  • Insurance Provider
  • Insurance Company Phone Number

Immediately After You Leave

Seek medical attention. If you sustained any injuries, make sure to visit a doctor as soon as possible. An ambulance arrived at the scene of my daughter’s accident and the EMTs treated her scratches on site and evaluated her for a potential concussion. Because they treated her, we did not seek additional medical attention afterwords.

Report the accident to your insurance provider. Most people don’t want to do this because they believe it will increase their rates. However, this is a requirement in ALL insurance policies. If you fail to report it and a dispute arises later, you can face penalties or risk being dropped by your carrier for failing to report an accident.

The Next Few Days

Make follow-up appointments. If you sustained injuries that required follow up care, make sure to schedule the appointments. Also, keep a record of the appointments for your insurance claim.

Arrange for a rental car and repairs. Insurance should cover these expenses and arrangements. If not, consult friends and family for repair shop recommendations. If you come up empty there, try Yelp. Also, check the Better Business Bureau before making your final decision to make sure there isn’t a history of complaints against the repair shop.

Exercise caution but don’t avoid driving. Because my daughter is a new driver, I didn’t want this accident to shape her entire opinion of driving. Where we live and how we live, requires daily driving. So, as soon as I was certain she could handle it, I had her drive us on a short errand. We practiced skills to help her assess the safety of the roads, including monitoring other drivers’ behavior. I firmly believe that the longer you wait to face your fear, the harder it is to conquer.

If You Need to Replace Your Car

Sadly, our minivan was totaled in the accident. Replacing your vehicle can be added stress on top of an already taxing experience. While insurance will cover the value of your totaled vehicle, you likely won’t be able to replace it for that.

For example, my minivan was 7 years old. That’s a lot of depreciation! And while I’m not opposed to used cars, I didn’t really want a car that had seven years of someone else’s stale goldfish and sticky fingerprints on the inside. No, instead I wanted a new minivan and I was being forced to buy it 2 years sooner than I’d planned. The insurance settlement was going to help with the down payment, but I needed to navigate the whole process of buying a new car and come up with a way to pay the balance.

If you find yourself in this situation, save yourself a lot of time and trouble by using Capital One’s Auto Navigator® site. My regular readers know I’m a BIG fan of one-stop shopping. It saves me time, and if I choose the right location, it saves me money too. That’s what makes Capital One’s Auto Navigator® the perfect place to shop for your replacement vehicle.

You can compare financing options, pre-qualify (with NO impact on your credit score), and search for cars all in one place.


I like that you can search for your replacement vehicle in the way that suits you best. You can choose a specific make and model, search by body style, or set a price range.


The last thing you want to do after an accident is spend all day on the phone or at a bank and auto dealership. Why put yourself through that when you can do it all online at Capital One’s Auto Navigator® site?

I hope that you will never need these tips. Unfortunately, the likelihood of being involved in an auto accident is very high. So, please make sure you know what steps to take after a car accident to limit the stress that can occur if you experience one.

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