5 Things to Avoid After a Car Accident

What to avoid after a car accident

When you aren’t able to avoid an accident, the next best thing is to make sure you handle the situation the right way. So if you find yourself in the middle of a fender bender or something potentially more serious, here are six practices you should definitely avoid:

1. Leaving the involved vehicles on the road

With traffic attempting to move around the accident scene, your first priority is to pull your vehicle off to the side of the road at a safe distance from traffic. Then turn on your hazard lights before exiting your car, and approach the other driver in a non-threatening manner. “If one or more vehicles are disabled, don’t try to move them,” says Bill Windsor, associate vice president of consumer safety for Nationwide. “If the hazard lights are operating, turn them on. Use flares too if you have them. Then stay a very safe distance away from the traffic.”

2. Losing your cool

Even if the other driver was clearly at fault, do not make accusations or otherwise invite confrontation. “Instead, ask if the other person is OK to help defuse any tension,” Windsor says. “Take deep breaths if you feel anger building.”

3. Not contacting the police immediately

You must contact police, no matter how minor the situation. “Average citizens should not act as judges with regard to the severity of an incident,” Windsor says. “That’s for police to determine. In addition, you need an official police report to document what exactly happened.”

4. Not contacting your insurance provider

Your insurance agent should always be called after you’ve exchanged the following information with the other driver: name, address, phone number, insurance company name/policy number, license plate number/state, name of the vehicle owner and car year/make/model/color. The Nationwide app makes it easy (see below). Also, record details about the incident, such as the location, the time of the crash and a summary of how it happened. Take pictures of the damage done to your vehicle.

5. Accepting cash to “keep it quiet.”

Some drivers—if they’re at fault and face possible legal and/or insurance issues because of their record—might offer what looks like a sufficient amount of cash to “fix the problem without contacting police or insurance companies.” This is a bad idea. “Even if it doesn’t look like it will cost that much to fix your vehicle,” Windsor says, “you have no way of knowing how expensive it may actually get. There’s also damage that you can’t see. Contacting police and Nationwide is absolutely essential.”