Even the most careful driver can find themselves involved in a car accident. Whether the accident is a minor parking lot bump or a serious fender bender, there are certain things you should always do in the aftermath to improve your safety and the legal and financial consequences of the incident.
Here are nine things to do always do after a car accident:
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1. Remain on the scene
If your car is still functional, pull your vehicle over in a place where it won’t obstruct traffic. If you cannot drive the car for any reason, vacate the vehicle immediately and move to safety. Activate your hazard lights as soon as you are able to. Note that fleeing the scene of an accident is a criminal offence in Australia.
2. Perform a health check
Check whether or not anyone involved in the accident is injured. Take a precautionary approach to any reports of injury or discomfort, as potentially serious injuries can be masked by shock. It is also essential that anyone involved in the accident does not loiter on the roadside or near the accident scene, as there is a high risk of secondary collisions following accidents. Move to the shoulder of the road, out of the emergency lane.
3. When to call emergency services
Make use of the emergency services hotline in the following circumstances:
- if one or both vehicles, or accident debris, causes obstruction of traffic or poses a potential hazard to other road users
- damage has been caused to a light pole, traffic light or other public road fixture
- if anyone involved in the accident was injured or trapped in their vehicle
- if the other driver flees the scene, refuses to provide their personal details or appears to be intoxicated
- if criminal or aggressive behaviour caused the accident or was demonstrated after the incident.
It is a legal requirement to call the police in many states if any of the above conditions apply to the accident.
In the event that the accident does not meet the conditions above, but one of the vehicles requires towing or the collision results in probable damage of $3000 or more you are required to file an incident report with the police. This can be done either via your local police hotline or at a police station.
4. Warn other road users
In the event one of the cars involved in the accident is blocking traffic, take steps to make the accident scene as visible as possible by deploying warning triangles, orange cones or flares.
5. Call your insurer
Even if you do not make a claim this has several benefits. The insurance hotline will typically arrange free towing of your vehicle if required, provide you with advice on how to handle the incident and alert emergency services if required. In some states it is a legal obligation to report to your insurer any accident that results in injury or death.
6. Get the other driver’s information
To avoid the other driver disappearing after an accident it is advisable to get the following information from them:
- telephone number
- Rego number
- the name of their insurer.
You are required to supply the same information to the other driver.
In the event you damage an unoccupied car, write a note with these details and place it under the other car’s windshield wiper. Don’t be tempted to flee the scene without leaving your details. Security cameras and witnesses could be used to track you down using your Rego number, resulting in serious consequences for even a minor accident.
7. Take photos
Take photos of the accident scene if and when it is safe to do so. Include the damage to both vehicles as well as any injuries sustained in the accident.
8. Keep calm and stick to the facts
Keep exchanges with any parties involved in the accident unemotional and business-like. Limit any discussions to the facts of the incident and do not either attach blame or accept fault in the accident. Behaving aggressively after an accident or apologizing for it can both have legal and financial consequences down the line. Leave the assessment of fault to expert third parties rather than attempting to establish this at the accident scene.
9. See a doctor
If you experience any physical discomfort following the accident, ensure that you consult with your doctor. Concussion and neck damage are both common following car accidents, and it is advisable to test for both as these injuries can easily result in serious complications if they are untreated.
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