What to Do After A Car Accident – Your Ultimate Crash Guide

Knowing what to do after a car accident impacts many factors, including your health and your legal right to claim compensation. Learn how to recover from a car crash.
A man sitting on the road and talking on his mobile phone following a car accident

Why Knowing What to Do After a Car Accident is Vital

Knowing what to do after a car accident is vital to ensuring the safety of everyone involved and protecting your legal right to claim damages. While being in a car accident can be terrifying, it can also cost you a lot of money, especially if you end up physically or mentally injured and taking time off work.

Recent statistics from the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics show more than 1,000 people sadly pass away on Australian roads every year, and more than 10,000 people are seriously injured in road accidents every month. With stats like that, it is likely just a matter of time before the unexpected happens and you have a collision.

Next Steps Following a Motor Vehicle Crash

Understanding your next steps following a motor vehicle crash helps ensure everyone is safe; you have the evidence you need to make a successful auto insurance claim, get back on the road faster, and claim compensation when the accident is not your fault.

Here are the seven steps following a car accident covered in our helpful guide:

  1. Stay calm and think clearly.
  2. Check for motor accident injuries
  3. Move vehicles out of traffic
  4. Call the police
  5. Exchange driver information
  6. Take pictures and videos
  7. File a claim with your insurance company

Knowing what to do following a car accident helps everyone be safe and protects your legal rights as a motorist. Let’s dive into the first step: staying calm.

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7 Steps to Follow After a Car Accident

1. Stay Calm

There is no doubt that having a car accident can be stressful, overwhelming, and frightening, particularly if it is your first. Even minor collisions can trigger a fight-or-flight response and emotional trauma. However, staying calm and thinking rationally after an accident is crucial because what you do next will have consequences for recovering your losses.

Here’s what you should do to stay calm and handle the situation effectively:

Take a Deep Breath

It might seem obvious, but the first action you should take after a car accident is to take several deep breaths. Regulating your breathing helps you to calm down and think rationally. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try counting your breaths or repeating a calming mantra to yourself. You may need to lie down (in a safe place) and elevate your feet if you think you are experiencing a shock.

Focus on your Present Environment

When you are already feeling stressed, focusing on what just occurred or what will happen next could heighten your anxiety. A constructive strategy is to focus on your present environment. Assess your surroundings, check yourself and others for injuries, and take note of any risks or potential dangers from the crash scene or your surroundings.

Avoid Blaming Yourself or Someone Else

Immediately after a car accident, you will likely feel emotional, especially if you or someone else is injured. It is easy to blame yourself or someone else at this challenging time. Please try to avoid this behaviour and, in particular, resist apologising. An apology is often an admission of guilt. Generally, who is at fault for the traffic accident determines legal liability, impacting the success of insurance and compensation claims. Determining who is negligent is best achieved by an accident lawyer with an in-depth understanding of compensation law and insurance litigation.

Get Emotional Support

Car accidents happen in an instant and often invoke an emotional response, with severe accidents sometimes causing psychological injuries. If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or emotionally disturbed, reach out to a loved one or a friend for support. Talking to someone you trust can help you process your feelings and recover. Seeing a qualified road trauma psychologist if you are having trouble coping with your thoughts is also a good idea.

Furthermore, if you decide to lodge a personal injury claim, your compensation lawyer will likely recommend a psychologist or psychiatrist to assess your mental health and provide treatment, if necessary. The following section will cover the importance of checking for injuries.

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2. Check for Injuries

Car accidents can result in extensive physical injuries and emotional damage, from minor cuts and bruises to whiplash, fractures, and life-threatening conditions. Immediately after a collision, you must check yourself for injuries and make sure everyone is safe. Please be aware that it can take time for symptoms to develop, so even if you feel fine now, we recommend you have a medical assessment.

Here are the steps you must take to check for injuries after a car accident:

Assess Yourself for Injuries

If you are not severely injured after your accident, the first person you should check for injuries is yourself. It would help if you took the time to assess your body and look for any visible damage, like cuts, bruises, or broken bones. Seeking medical assistance immediately, regardless of how you feel, because you can have a considerable adrenalin surge following an accident, which can mask your pain. In this situation, a doctor should assess your health status.

Check if Passengers are Injured

If you have passengers in your car, check them for injuries. Ask them if they feel okay and see if they have any visible harm. If necessary, call for medical assistance right away.

Assess Other Road Users for Injuries

If you’ve been involved in a multi-car accident (and you are okay), please also check the other road users for injuries. Confirm they are feeling alright and look for any noticeable damage. If someone else is harmed, call for fast medical help.

Seek Immediate Medical Treatment

If there are injured persons after the accident, it is best to call an ambulance (or other first responders) and be admitted to the hospital for medical assessment or treatment. Regardless of how you feel, your harm may not show for hours or even days after, and not all injuries are visible, so X-rays and scans are advisable.

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3. Move Motor Vehicles Out of Traffic

After a car accident, there can be numerous hazards to your well-being, especially when the collision is on a busy road or intersection. Here are the steps to move your motor vehicle out of traffic after a car accident.

Check for Safety Hazards

Before moving your motor vehicle, check for any safety hazards, like leaking fuel, damaged electrical wiring, metal fragments, or broken glass. If you see any potential risks, first ensure the engine is switched off, then move at least 30 metres away from your car. Note that if your car is severely damaged, you must call a tow truck.

Move to the Side of the Road

If you see no safety hazards, carefully move your motor vehicle to the side of the road. If your hazard lights are still working, turn them on, set up traffic cones (if you have them), or signal other drivers where possible. Once your car is on the side of the road, we recommend you remain inside your vehicle (if there is no fire or smoke or it’s not severely damaged) until someone comes to help you.

Document the Accident Scene

While waiting for the police to arrive, document the accident scene by taking photos and videos of vehicle damage, tyre marks, and the surroundings. This includes the position of traffic signs in relation to the automobiles—also, photograph licence plate numbers and your visible accident injuries. Remember, you will need evidence to prove who negligence caused the traffic event and, if you were not at fault, proof for your personal injury claim.

Moving your motor vehicle out of traffic after a car accident will help avoid further harm and ensure everyone is safe from injury. In the next section, we’ll cover interactions with the police.

4. Call the Police

After a car accident, you may want to call the police, mainly when the other party is aggressive or someone has a severe injury. You should know there are circumstances in which you are legally required to have a police presence at the crash scene.

Here are the steps to follow if you call the police after a car accident:

Dial the Emergency Services Number

First, call the emergency service number, which in Australia is 000. Once your call is answered, they will ask for your location and a brief accident description.

Please Cooperate with the Police

Once the police arrive at the scene, please remain calm, cooperate with them and provide all the necessary information. They will ask for your driver’s license, registration, contact and insurance information. Remember that the police report will form part of your compensation claim, as it helps prove who was the at-fault driver.

Get a Copy of the Police Report

After they have fully assessed the situation, you should receive a copy of the police report; if you don’t get one, be sure to chase them for a copy by going to the police station. This document contains the critical information you will need for your insurance claim and personal injury claim like:

  1. The accident date and time
  2. location of the event
  3. the driver’s names
  4. The cause of the accident

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What is the Legal Requirement for Police to Attend a Car Accident?

The following are the Queensland legal requirements for police assistance in a car accident, which are similar to other states of Australia:

  • A fatality or an injury that requires medical attention from an ambulance office, doctor or nurse.
  • The accident has caused a danger to public safety, like traffic jams, broken traffic lights, fuel spills, fires or damaged power lines.
  • Property damage to motor vehicles or other facilities like traffic lights and public infrastructure exists.

Police must also be contacted when the motor vehicle accident involves:

  • Suspected intoxicated driving – drugs, alcohol or other substances.
  • One of the drivers won’t provide their details.
  • A driver has a disability or impairment.

Next, we explore driver information exchange in our ultimate guide to what to do following a car accident.

5. Exchange Information with the Other Motorists

It is mandatory to exchange contact information with other motorists involved in a road incident. We recommend you take these steps when exchanging details with other drivers after a car accident.

Get Other Motorists’ Contact Details

You must get the contact details of other motorists, including their name, phone number, address, registration plate and third-party insurance provider’s name. If someone other than the vehicle owner was driving, you will need these details for the driver and the registered owner.

Get Witness Details and Statements

Witness statements are valuable for substantiating your version of events, which will impact the outcome of any subsequent litigation. So, please get the contact information of anyone who saw the accident happen or the immediate aftermath. You can ask them for a written statement, or your lawyer can chase them once you have legal representation.

Get Their Insurance Information

To repair your vehicle and make a car accident claim, you will need the other driver’s insurance information, including the insurer’s name and policy number. If, for some reason, they don’t have insurance, you will need their driver’s licence number and vehicle registration details.

Please note – you can still claim personal injury compensation for a car accident when the other driver is uninsured. In this situation, you are lodging against the nominal defendant, and this type of litigation has a tight time limit, so please seek legal advice immediately.

Give Them Your Information

You are legally required to provide your contact information and insurer details. These details include your name, contact number, address and CTP insurance policy details. If law enforcement attends the scene, they will need the same information.

You must exchange details with other drivers after a car accident so everyone can begin the claims process. The following section reviews how taking pictures of the damage is essential to protecting your legal rights.

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6. Take Pictures & Video of the Damage

Following a car accident, we recommend you take pictures and videos of your motor vehicle and any others involved in the traffic crash. These are the steps you should take to record the damage after a car accident visually:

Take Multiple Photos

Take multiple photos of each vehicle involved in the accident from different angles, including damage to the vehicles’ front, back, sides, and roof. If there are any visible injuries, take photos of them as well.

Take Videos of the Scene

As well as taking photos, please record videos of the entire accident scene and surroundings. Capture the accident location, any skid marks on the road, traffic light and road sign locations, and the positions of the vehicles involved in the accident. If there are any witnesses, take videos of them too (with their permission).

Use a Measuring Tool

You can also use a measuring tool to document the damages if necessary. If you choose to do this, measure the length and width of the damage to your vehicle and any other damaged cars.

Submit the Photos & Videos to Your Insurance Company

After visually recording the damage, please submit it to your insurance company along with your accident claim. They will also expect all the usual information on the claim form, like the accident location, the driver’s name, the cause, and who you think was to blame.

Please know that your lawyer or solicitor will also need this information if you decide to claim personal injury compensation. In the next section of our car accident guide, we examine why you should begin the claims process immediately.

7. Start the Accident Claim Process

After a car accident, they are several reasons why you should start the accident claim process with your insurer as soon as you can. Here are the steps you should take to begin the claims process after a car accident:

Contact Your Insurance Company

Please get in touch with your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident to report your claim. Generally, it is easy to do this through their mobile app, website, or call them. The minimum information they will need to process your case is the incident date and time, location, drivers’ names and what caused the accident.

Give Them Your Photos and Videos

When lodging your accident insurance claim, you should give them the photos and videos you took of the damage and accident scene. This evidence will substantiate your case and likely escalate a decision, which means getting repairs approved faster.

Work with Your Claims Adjuster

After submitting your claim, you may need to work with a claims adjuster to assess the extent of the damages and determine who was at fault. Cooperating with the insurance adjuster is a good idea, as hesitation may make it seem like you have something to hide. If the insurer rejects your claim, you can always lodge a dispute.

Repair or Replace Your Vehicle

After your claims adjuster has assessed the damages, you can repair or replace your vehicle, depending on its impact. If a repair shop can restore your car, your insurer typically arranges for it to be towed to one of their certified panel beaters. However, depending on your policy terms, you may get money to buy a new car if your vehicle has sustained substantial damage and is a right-off.

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Other Useful Advice for After a Car Accident

Be Careful With Social Media Posts

After a car accident, please be conscious of what you post on your social media channels. You may be tempted to express how you are feeling to your family, friend and associates, which can open a conversation that has legal consequences.

Large insurance companies employ teams whose entire job is to find ways to minimise and deny claim payouts. They may decide to monitor your activity and use your words against you when it comes to negotiating a settlement. Worst still, you may end up being charged with a crime if they think your activity is fraudulent. Please follow our social media tips:

• Don’t discuss your accident on social media. Something you say could admit your liability or worse.
• Refrain from uploading pictures and updates about your incident.
• Know that insurers monitor this type of activity, and they are skilled at using are this information.

What Happens When You Are the At-Fault Driver?

If you are the at-fault driver of a road accident, what happens next depends on your type of insurance policy and its terms and conditions. For some comprehensive accident policies, the insurer will cover most of your damages, and you may need to pay an excess. Other policies may pay out little or nothing when you are to blame. Please check with your insurer to see your level of coverage,

If you only have compulsory third-party insurance cover (not comprehensive), you will generally be liable for all accident costs. This does not include the cost of personal injury damages if the not-at-fault driver makes a claim, as discussed in the following section.

What Happens When I Am Not the Negligent Driver?

When you have a car accident and are not a negligent driver, you have the legal right to claim compensation for your loss. You could still have a successful payout even if you were partly at fault. In this situation, you’re making a CTP claim against the third-party insurance of the negligent motorist, which is compulsory for all Queensland car owners.

If, for some reason, the other driver does not have a licence or CTP cover, you can still claim damages against the nominal defendant. Either way, your best course of action is to work with an experienced road accident claim lawyer. They understand how to get the best possible outcome for your legal matter.

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What is the Time Limit for Lodging A CTP Claim?

In Queensland (and most Australian states), you must lodge a CTP claim (notice of accident claim form) within one month of speaking with a lawyer about your accident or within nine months of the accident date, whichever date is earliest.

If you are considering making a claim, it is best to get informed legal advice as soon as possible. This is because the steps you take immediately following your accident will impact the outcome of your case.

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How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Compensation Claim?

At Splatt Lawyers, it’s free to know your legal rights and if you have a valid compensation claim. When successful, you will generally receive compensation for:

  • Your medical and rehabilitation costs, ambulance and hospital expenses
  • Lost income and superannuation
  • Pain and suffering (lost quality of life)
  • Medical-related travel expenses
  • Cost of home care.

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Get Expert Legal Advice After a Car Accident

Getting reliable traffic accident legal advice following a car accident is vital to be sure of accessing all your entitlements. Accident insurers will seek to deny or reduce your benefits or minimise the severity of your injuries.

Splatt Lawyer’s personal injury legal team has supported Queenslanders with expert legal advice for nearly three decades. You can find comfort in knowing that all our accident compensation lawyers work on a 100% no-win, no-fee basis. As a result, you owe nothing unless we win your case and nothing if you lose. Contact us now for your complimentary case review – Call 1800 700125

Common Questions Following a Car Accident

Who should I call after a car accident?

First, call the police and your insurance company. Then contact the expert injury compensation team at Splatt Lawyers – Call 1800 700 125

What should I do if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

You can lodge a claim with your insurance company if you have comprehensive coverage. When the accident was not your fault, and you seek compensation, your lawsuit is lodged with the nominal defendant. Our lawyers will explain this process in detail when you contact us.

How do I document the scene after a car accident?

We recommend you take photos and videos of the vehicle damage and the entire accident scene, including the position of traffic signals and signs in relation to the automobiles.

What if my insurance company denies my claim?

Insurance companies sometimes seek to limit your payout by initially disputing your claim. When this happens, you should get the support of an experienced accident litigation lawyer.

How long does it take to process a car insurance claim?

The time it takes to get a successful car insurance payout can range from a few days to several weeks. The extent of damages and the claim complexity will determine how long it takes.

What if I can’t afford to pay for repairs or medical bills?

If you struggle financially following a car accident, you should get legal help with filing a damages lawsuit to recover losses.

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