This should be obvious, but it bears saying – safety should be the priority in all decisions after a car accident.
No one plans to be in an accident, but there are some things you can do to be ready in case of one. One thing you can do is “ICE” your phone. “ICE” stands for “In Case of Emergency”, and emergency responders will look in your phone under “ICE” for emergency contact names and numbers. Another thing to do is know where your insurance information and vehicle registration cards are. That’ll save rummaging through your car in the confusion of an accident scene. You should also have a copy of the Accident Information Form that’s part of this section, and something to write with. A few flares, cones, or reflective triangles are a good idea too.
If it’s just a minor fender-bender with no injuries or major damage to the cars, move them out of traffic. Exchange information with the other driver using your Accident Information Form. Use your flares, cones, or reflective triangles to alert traffic to your situation. Make sure to place the first of these far enough from the scene that drivers have time to react. Many times police will not be involved in a fender-bender if there are no injuries, but you should still file an accident report. Virginia’s DMV website has a downloadable form, FR200, which is a “Voluntary Report of a Crash” that you can fill out and file.
In a more serious crash, tend to anyone injured in the accident to the extent of your abilities. If something’s on fire, put it out if you can safely do so. Call the police, and other emergency responders if need be. Check to be sure all vehicles involved have the keys turned off.
In addition to the information on your Accident Information Form, jot down any other information that you think might be important. Take pictures and record the positions of the vehicles and any information relating to cross-streets, mile markers, and anything else you can think of that might be useful. Be prepared to answer any questions the police have for you. Don’t tell them or the other driver or drivers that the accident was your fault.
Contact your insurance company as soon as it’s practical. Give them copies of all the information that you’ve gathered. Keep in mind that choosing a body shop that you like is your right. Almost all insurance companies have shops that give them a discount and work with them to cut costs by using cheaper or used parts, in return for the insurance company “steering” work their way. These are called “DRP” shops, and it’s possible to perceive such a relationship as a conflict of interest. If the insurance company is the shop’s customer, the vehicle owner isn’t, and who’s looking out for him? “Steering” is illegal, so pick a shop that you’re comfortable with.