What to Do After a Car Accident

By Nancy B
March 27, 2024
Side impact car crash

We pledge to provide straight talk from our NNINS Virginia insurance experts. Read the Northern Neck Insurance INTEGRITY PROMISE.

Use this car accident checklist to help you navigate the steps after a car accident, ensure your safety, and ensure you have everything you need to file an auto insurance claim.

Steps to take after a car accident

1. Stay calm, alert, and safe

Stay in the car, keep your seat belt on, stay calm, and turn on your hazard lights. Look to see if other drivers are approaching the area. If your car is drivable, move it to the side of the road or as far away from traffic as possible while still remaining at the scene of the accident. Warn oncoming traffic using your hazard lights and/or setting up road flares. Never leave the scene of the crash before the police or the other driver.                                           

2. Get help

Dial 911 to report the accident and ask for help. The 911 operator can further guide the process and provide essential safety assistance. Provide factual details to police.

3. Take photos

But only if it's safe! Never get out of your car to examine damage or take pictures on a dark or busy road or highway. It may be safer to move the vehicle off the road first. When it's safe, take pictures of the road, damage to the cars involved, and anything else that tells the story of what happened. 

What types of accident pictures should you take?

  • Damage to all cars involved in the accident and license plates.
  • All non-car property damage caused by the accident, such as road signs, fences, or utility poles.
  • A video showing traffic conditions and traffic light intervals, if applicable.
  • All marks on or off the pavement, such as skids or gouges.

6. Get witness information

Ask anyone who saw the accident if they would provide that information to police or insurance providers. Get their name, address, and phone number. The more key information you have, the better.

7. Exchange insurance information 

Gather your information. You'll need your license, car registration, and current insurance information. Get driver names, passenger names, contact information, insurance names, policy numbers, make and model of the cars involved, and license plate numbers. Use your phone to take pictures of each. Do not discuss the accident with anyone but law enforcement. 

8. Record the details

After you're safe and at a stable location, record the details of what happened while they are fresh in your mind. You can even use the voice recorder on your phone to include what happened before, during, and after the accident.

9. Contact your independent agent and report your claim

We're here to help! Call your local agent or our toll-free Claims Hotline at 1-877-968-7252.

10. Call For Emergency Roadside Assistance

If your car is undrivable or you are unsure if it is, it's better to call a tow truck or utilize VDOT's Safety Service Patrol for interstate collisions than risk more damage or a breakdown trying to drive home. You may also have roadside assistance on your car insurance policy or you may call a tow truck.

What if it's just a minor car accident or a fender bender?

If you're involved in a minor car accident with minimal damage to either car and no injuries, you may choose not to file a claim or report the accident to the police. However, you should still exchange information just in case you or the other driver decide to file a claim later. You should also let your insurance company know about the incident.

Will my rates go up after a car accident?

If it's determined that you were at fault for the accident, your rates will likely go up when your policy renews. However, your rates may not be affected if your crash involves an animal collision. Not all insurance companies charge you more for accidents that weren't your fault—but some do. The best thing to do is to check with your local insurance agent and learn more about how accidents impact insurance rates.

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THE NORTHERN NECK INSURANCE INTEGRITY PROMISE — We pledge to provide straight talk and good counsel from our NNINS Virginia insurance experts through our blog. While we hope you find this to be a helpful source of information, it does not replace the guidance of a licensed insurance professional, nor does it modify the terms of your Northern Neck Insurance policy in any way. All insurance products are governed by the terms in the applicable insurance policy.