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9 Steps to Take After A Car Accident – 2024 Legal Guide

Unfortunately, anyone who drives a car on the road must always expect to be involved in an accident. There is an external or self-inflicted crash, due to technical failure or a chain of unfortunate circumstances. We have put together a few important tips so that you can stay calm in the worst-case scenario. Internalize our information to gain security and to be able to behave correctly in the event of damage. Be aware that sheet metal damage does not mean the end of the world and that personal injury requires quick and targeted action.

Keep calm

After the first horror, it’s time to keep calm! The correct behavior after an accident saves you a lot of trouble afterwards when it comes to handling and settling claims. Avoid short circuit and concentrate on the further procedure. If you have insurance, they can also help you in such a situation, but the process often takes a long time. It would be beneficial for you to call your lawyer first, who will give you legal advice and guidance regarding your next steps. If you are not an attorney, you will face difficulties filing certain legal documents. Filling out the wrong paper can ruin your case. A proficient accident attorney will take care of the necessary paperwork and help you gain the compensation you deserve. Check out Slater&Zurz to learn what you should expect when meeting an accident attorney.

Secure the scene

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Stop in as safe a place as possible, where you hardly hinder the flow of traffic. Switch on the hazard warning lights and put on your safety vest.

Let other drivers know by setting up the warning triangle. As a guideline: Around 50 meters before the crash site in city traffic, 100 meters on country roads and 200 meters on motorways.

Remove the injured from the danger zone (if possible behind the guardrail). But always pay attention to your own safety! If necessary, ask other people for help.

Call 911

If people are injured, immediately call the emergency services. The control center alert police, paramedics  and, if necessary, the fire department.

If there is only damage to car, inform the police anyway. If there is only minor damage, calling the police is not absolutely necessary, but is also not prohibited.

When you report, note the so-called 5 W:

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  • Where is the scene of it?
  • What happened?
  • How many people are affected?
  • What injuries are there?
  • Waiting for questions!

Provide first aid

Do not under any circumstances wait until the emergency services and the police are at the scene of the accident if someone is in danger. Provide first aid immediately. Do not be afraid of wrongly caring for the injured. As a layperson, you cannot be held responsible for errors in first aid. Failure to provide assistance is punishable!

If an injured person cannot be addressed, first check the vital functions such as breathing and pulse. If you notice regular breathing, bring the victim to a stable side position. If breathing stops or is irregular, you should start resuscitation immediately. You should stop heavy bleeding with a pressure bandage.

Also important: keep the injured warm (with the help of the emergency blanket or a jacket) and calm them down.

Collect evidence

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In the case of major crash in particular, you should not remove any traces that could be important for the police to understand the course of it. Take photos – both detailed photos of the damage and overview pictures of the site and the vehicles involved – and possibly also make a sketch that clarifies the process.

It is also advisable to write an report together with the other participants. For this you should always have a writing pad and pen in the car. If you cannot take photos with your cell phone, a camera is also useful.

Exchange contact details

It is particularly important, of course, that you exchange contact details (name, address, telephone and email address) with all those involved, and note down the license plate number and vehicle owner (unless these are the drivers themselves). You should also write down the insurance of the person who caused the accident and his contract number. If there are witnesses, have their contact details provided.

If the police are informed, be sure to stay at the scene until the officers arrive. In the event of injuries, you even have to wait up to two hours. There are fines and imprisonment for driving away, so even with minor damage it is not enough to leave a note with your contact details.

The driver’s license is also withdrawn if the driver escapes if significant damage has occurred.

Report it to the insurance company

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You are obliged to report it to your car insurance company as soon as possible; the provider should be informed within a week – a faster report should be in your interest. Regardless of whether you or other parties involved in the accident are to blame. In the case of serious injuries and deaths, there is even a period of 48 hours and the companies must also be informed here.

For the contact with the opposing car insurance, it may be advisable to turn on your traffic legal protection and a specialized lawyers, like This can prevent you from persuading the opposing insurance company to make decisions – for example with regard to the involvement of an expert – which are ultimately not in your interest.

How do I report the accident?

You can claim the insurance damage by telephone, in writing and, in the meantime, also online with many providers. Of course, it is also possible to personally visit your insurance agency. Many insurance companies offer an accident recording sheet on which you can also mark the damage on a schematic drawing. Your information should be true and you must also respond truthfully to inquiries from your insurance company, as you are subject to a so-called obligation to cooperate and notify.

If your opponent is at fault, it can make sense to actively report to your insurance company. Ideally, you should have the relevant data given directly at the scene of the accident. This way you don’t waste time and don’t need to rely on your opponent to take care of it.

Can I do without reporting to the car insurance company?

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In the case of minor damage up to an amount of around 500 dollars, it may make sense to take care of a damage settlement yourself, instead of reporting the accident to the car insurance company. If you pay the damage yourself and do not report it to the insurance company, you will keep your damage-free class. This is based on the number of years in which you drove without an accident and is associated with lower insurance premiums.

In the case of minor damage, it can be worthwhile to pay for the repairs yourself. The downgrading takes place by several classes and it takes a few years to balance them again. If you still want to report the damage afterwards, you must do so within the calendar year. If the accident occurred too long ago, the insurance company may refuse to process it. That’s why it’s essential to have an experienced car accident lawyer like Harris Keenan Goldfarb on your side to fight for your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.


If you are going on vacation with your own car, you should find out before your trip whether your car is also insured there. Even if an accident is probably the last thing you think about, the risk of an accident abroad is often higher because you are not familiar with all local traffic rules and signs and with the usual driving style.

About Peter Janos