What to Do if You are in an Auto Accident

Guest Post by Bryant Ficek, PE, PTOE, Vice-President at Spack Consulting

I’ve become a Statistic!!

The other car - badOn a recent Monday evening drive home, I was rear-ended on the freeway (besides having my bell rung, I appear to be in good shape – thanks for asking).  So for the first time in my life and driving career, my general stats and my vehicle stats will be entered into a massive state database.  Although striped of personal identification information, this crash and my stats will have an impact.  In the future, I could now be working on a project that uses my crash to help determine if and what type of improvements may be needed.

Rather than focus on any specifics (and while I wait for insurance to fix my car), this seems like a great opportunity to review what to do if you are in a crash:

  1. Stock an emergency kit. Before a crash happens, do you have an emergency kit in your car? This doesn’t have to be elaborate, but should include some basic first aid items (band-aids, wraps, instant ice packs, etc.), disposable camera (although cell phones work very well instead), water, and towels.
  2. Are you injured? Take a deep breath, stay calm and assess the situation.  If you or your passenger, or anyone in the other car, is seriously injured, call for help immediately.  Use your emergency kit to provide assistance if possible until help arrives.
  3. Find a safe place. Assuming everyone is not in any immediate harm, look for a safe place to pull out of traffic.  This could be the roadway shoulder, turning off onto a side road, or pulling onto the grass.  Getting as far away from moving traffic as possible helps avoid the possibility of a secondary crash if approaching drivers aren’t paying attention as well as reduces the impact on congestion.
  4. If you haven’t already, alert the police. Although there were no serious injuries in my crash, the State Patrol was contacted and helped to provide additional safety for us as we sorted out what happened.  Having a police report can also be helpful later for insurance purposes.
  5. Take photos. Lots and lots of photos.  Use your cell phone or disposable camera from your emergency kit. Capture the damages on both cars, license plate numbers, and any of the roadway or surrounding area that might have been a contributing factor.  I would also recommend taking photos of the non-crash parts of the vehicles – this just notes any prior damage on the vehicle.  Also it’s easy to take a photo of the other driver’s license and insurance information for later use rather than trying to write everything down now.
  6. Some people recommend recording everything (either audio or total video). That’s where a cell phone can come in handy again.  This can be important later if the other driver admits fault or to ensure details of the story do not change later.

I followed these steps except for #6 in this case. Although I didn’t record everything, I could see where that could be useful, particularly in a disputed liability case.

My one regret is that I did not look up the Minnesota traffic flow maps.  I could have seen my crash on the map and maybe watched myself in the freeway video feed.  That’s easy to joke about since I wasn’t seriously hurt.  Be safe out there.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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