What to Do After an Accident

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When you know what to do, you can stay calm after a crash.

You’re sitting in a line of traffic in your brand-new truck when something up ahead goes haywire. Suddenly, the street looks more like a game of bumper cars. What do you do?

Be prepared. In your glove box, keep paper and a pencil for taking notes, a card that lists local law enforcement agency contact numbers and your medical allergies or conditions that first responders should know about. If your cell phone doesn’t take photos, keep a disposable camera in the car, too.

Of course, these days, you may choose to keep much of this information in your cell phone under a file or note called “ICE,” which tells first responders where to look “In Case of Emergency.” You may also want to list several of your contacts, such as your spouse, parents or adult children under “ICE” in your phone’s contacts list. Better yet, download Nationwide Mobile from the iTunes App Store for free—it guides you through the steps to take after an accident, helps you notify law enforcement, find a Nationwide Blue RibbonSM Repair Facility and towing services, and start the claims process.

Stay safe. As long as the accident hasn’t caused serious injuries, move your car to the side of the road and encourage other drivers to do the same. Turn on your hazard lights (flashers) and put out flares or warning triangles.

Exchange information. Drivers involved should provide each other with their:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Insurance company name
  • Insurance policy number
  • Name of the insured person and relationship to the driver
  • Driver’s license state and number
  • License plate number for the driver and the owner of each vehicle
  • Car year, make, model and color

Resist the urge to apologize for the accident, even if you think it might be your fault. Law enforcement officers will determine the degree to which each driver may have contributed to the collision.

Record what happened. While you’re on site, write down the location of the accident and how it happened. Take pictures of the damage done to all of the vehicles involved. Ask any witnesses for their contact information in case the drivers disagree about the events.

Place an accident report. Even if law enforcement officers don’t respond to the accident, which sometimes happens if there are no injuries, download an accident report form from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website, fill it out and submit it.

Notify Nationwide. Rather than relying upon the goodwill of the other drivers to ensure that damages are paid for, submit an insurance claim. Doing so can help you protect your finances in the long term and get your car fixed more quickly in the short term.