Nobody wants to be involved in a car accident. Not only is the situation mentally jarring, but accidents can result in damages to the vehicle, physical injuries and even death. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are nearly 10 million auto accidents each year, from fender benders to fatal crashes. While many may be panic-stricken in the event of a car accident, knowing what to do in the event of a crash can help save lives, reduce injuries and also make the claims process simpler and easier.

In the unfortunate event of an accident, clients should know how to proceed. The situation can be filled with adrenaline and confusion, but knowing how to respond can help protect everyone involved in the incident.

For someone who is involved in an accident, the Insurance Information Institute recommends taking the following steps. Click through the slideshow for a step-by-step protocol to keep drivers safe and improve the ease of the claims process.

1. Assess the damage

If a driver is able, he should pull the car to the side of the road or to a safe place out of the way, and check to see if anyone involved in the accident is injured.

Furthermore, this may be a good opportunity to assess the extent of damage to the vehicle. While the safety of the vehicle’s passengers is the main priority, evaluating the extent of damage can help ease the claims process.

2. Call the police or highway patrol if the accident is serious.

Those involved in an accident should contact law enforcement, especially if anyone has been hurt, to report the extent of their injuries. The police will then notify the nearest medical unit and send for help.

If the police cannot arrive on the scene, if possible, drivers can also head to the nearest police department (or their website) to file an incident report. Filing an official report can be helpful, especially if the other driver decides to sue for damages or medical injuries, or if there is more damage to the vehicle that initially thought.

If the police do arrive on the scene, those involved in the accident should be sure to get the officers’ names and badge numbers, and should inquire as to where they can receive a copy of the incident report.

3.   Collect as much information as possible 

While collecting the officers’ names and badge numbers is important, drivers should really strive to get as much information as possible from all involved in the accident, including witnesses.

Ask the driver (or drivers, if the accident involves multiple vehicles) for their license, registration and insurance ID card. Also record the make and model of the vehicles involved.

In addition, drivers should be diligent in noting the location of the accident, the time of day and the weather conditions. It may be a good idea to use a smartphone or other electronic device to document the information, as well as taking photos at the scene. However, it is always a good idea to keep a pen and paper in the glove compartment, as it is an easy way to record information.

But III recommends that those involved in an accident remain objective when sharing information with others. Do not discuss who was at fault or the extent of the auto insurance coverage with the other drivers.


4. Get the claims process started

As soon as possible, drivers should contact their insurance agent to discuss the accident. The longer drivers wait, the harder it can be to remember details. Agents should encourage clients to contact them immediately so that they can accurately begin the claims process.

Many insurance companies also use mobile apps to start the claims process, which allow clients to check the status of a claim, upload photos, check on the deductible, schedule an appraisal, reserve a rental car and request reimbursements for towing or other claims. Some apps even allow clients to notify the insurance adjuster and what happened by visually re-creating the events and circumstances of the car accident. Encourage clients to download your company’s app, so they have it in the event of the worst-case scenario.

When working with the insurance company, it is also important that the client records the name, title and contact information of everyone they speak with throughout the process. If they receive claim forms, clients should be encouraged to fill them out as soon as possible with the most accurate information. Agents should encourage clients to contact them throughout the process, should any questions arise, and clients should feel comfortable seeking the help of the claims adjuster for assistance.

Drivers should also keep a file of all of their notes and claim forms, documenting the entire process. The more organized the client is, the simpler the process should be.

From the insurer’s standpoint, the company should strive to make the claims experience as pleasant and efficient as possible, given the circumstances. By informing clients of the protocol, they can streamline the process to make it easier on the insurance company and on the client.