What to Do After a Car Accident: 7 Steps to Take

Updated December 16, 2022

Reading time: 5 minutes

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Getting into a car accident can be stressful, and it might be difficult for you to think clearly after a crash. But learning what to do beforehand can better prepare you to remain calm.

Your insurance rates can increase following a crash, especially if you’re at fault. But comparing quotes from several insurers can help you find affordable coverage.

What you need to do after a car accident

Here are seven things you can do to protect yourself after an accident, and how to prepare for one ahead of time.

1. Assess the situation

First, check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If you don't have any significant injuries and you’re able to do so, move your vehicle to a safe location. Afterward, inspect your car for any damages.

Read More: 10 States with the Most Car Accidents in 2022

2. Check in with the other driver or drivers

Once you’ve made sure everyone in your car is all right, if it’s safe to do so, check on the other driver or drivers involved in the accident. Next, exchange necessary contact and insurance information with the other driver or drivers, such as names, vehicle registration information, insurance ID cards, and driver’s licenses.[1]

3. Call an ambulance or law enforcement 

If anyone is injured, dial 911 for an ambulance as quickly as possible. Calling the police to the scene may not be required if there aren’t any injuries or the property damages are under a certain amount. But it can still be a good idea to call them anyway so that you can file an official report documenting what happened in the accident.

When the police arrive on the scene, they’ll interview all parties involved in the accident and gather any witness statements. They’ll also make note of any vehicle damage and might include who they think was responsible for the accident in their police report.[1]

See Also: What Does Liability Insurance Cover?

4. Document the situation and gather information

It’s important to document as much information about the accident as you can, which will help you if you file a claim with your insurance company. Take photos of the following things:

  • Traffic signals

  • License plates of all the vehicles involved in the crash

  • Any damages to your vehicle or other vehicles

  • Any property damage

  • Any objects that can identify the crash’s location, such as street signs

Also, If there are any witnesses, ask them to share their names and contact information. 

5. Don't admit fault 

Even if you think you caused the accident, don't admit fault to law enforcement or the other driver. Also, don't apologize to the other driver since it can be interpreted as admitting you're at fault.[2]

Learn More: How Long Does an Accident Affect Your Insurance Rates?

6. Contact roadside assistance if needed

If you have roadside assistance, contact them if you need to tow your vehicle or fix a flat tire after a car accident.

7. Contact your auto insurer and file a claim

Notify your insurer about the car accident as soon as you can. To file a claim, fill out a claims form with your insurer and upload any important documents it asks for, such as photos of any damaged vehicles or a police report.  

Most insurers allow you to file a claim online, but you can also file one by speaking to an agent over the phone. After you’ve submitted the claims form, your insurer should send an appraiser out to investigate your claim.

Learn More: Why Do Car Insurance Companies Deny Claims?

How you can prepare for an accident in advance 

While no one wants to think about getting into a car accident, you can take some steps to be better prepared if an accident does happen: 

  • Purchase a first aid kit. If you don’t have a first aid kit, consider buying one and keeping it in your vehicle. It can come in handy after a car crash or other emergencies.

  • Consider purchasing AAA membership or roadside assistance. If your vehicle becomes undrivable as a result of a car accident, AAA or roadside assistance might tow it for a cheaper price than what you’d pay to have it towed on your own.

  • Keep important documents in your vehicle. Make sure you keep your car registration and proof of insurance in your vehicle.

  • Make sure you have enough coverage. Review your car insurance policy to see if you have enough coverage to fit your needs.

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What happens after an accident in at-fault and no-fault states?

How your claim is handled and who pays depends largely on whether you live in an at-fault or no-fault state.

At-fault state

Most states in the U.S. are at-fault states, also known as tort states. In these states, the at-fault driver is generally responsible for compensating other drivers for any medical bills or damage — either through their insurance provider or out of their pocket.

No-fault state

Twelve states are no-fault states, according to the Insurance Information Institute.[3] In a no-fault state, the insurance company of each driver involved in the accident compensates their policyholders for minor injuries, regardless of who caused the accident. But if you’re involved in an accident and you’re not at fault, you can sue the at-fault driver for severe injuries in certain scenarios.

Average insurance rates after an accident by state

Even if you’re not at fault in an accident, your insurance premium could still increase when your policy renews. Here’s a look at average insurance rates by state for drivers who have been in an accident.

StateAverage Monthly Rate After an Accident
Alabama $277 
Minnesota $260 
New HampshireN/A
New Jersey$400 
New Mexico$252 
New York$523 
North Carolina$138 
North DakotaN/A
Rhode Island$419 
South Carolina$352 
South DakotaN/A
Washington, D.C. N/A
West Virginia$293 
Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.

Check Out: Car Insurance After an Accident: What to Expect to Pay

Car accident FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about what to do after you’ve been in a car accident. 

  • Insurance companies generally require you to contact them after a car accident — even if it's only a minor one. But in some circumstances, you can choose not to involve your insurer.

    For example, if you back into a garbage can on your property and it leads to minor bumper damage, you could choose not to contact your insurer and pay for the repairs on your own.

  • If someone borrows your car with your permission and gets into an accident, your car insurance policy might cover them if they’re at fault in certain situations.[4] But if the person who borrows the car is listed as an excluded driver on your policy, they won’t be covered.

    On the other hand, if someone borrows your car without your permission and causes an accident, you probably won’t be held liable for damages caused to the other driver's vehicle.

  • Whether you need to file a police report after a car accident depends on many factors, like the laws in your state and where the accident happened. 

    For example, in Louisiana, drivers are required to file a police report when a car accident results in injury or death, or more than $500 in property damages.[5]

  • Your car insurance rates can go up after an accident. But whether your rates increase — and by how much — depends on several factors, including your driving history, your insurance company, the severity of the accident, and which driver was at fault.

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  1. NOLO. "Should I Call Police to the Scene of My Car Accident?." Accessed December 15, 2022
  2. NOLO. "Be Careful What You Say at the Scene of Your Car Accident." Accessed December 15, 2022
  3. Insurance Information Institute. "Background on: No-fault auto insurance." Accessed December 15, 2022
  4. NOLO. "Can I Be Liable for Someone Else's Driving?." Accessed December 15, 2022
  5. Louisiana State Legislature. "Louisiana State Legislature." Accessed December 15, 2022
Jerry Brown
Jerry Brown

Jerry has been writing about personal finance for over four years. He started writing about personal finance in 2017 to document his journey to get rid of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Two years ago, he pivoted away from writing for his own blog to focus on writing for major publishers like Bankrate, Forbes Advisor and Credible. He covers a variety of topics, including insurance, debt management and personal loans.