Because I work on car accident claims every day, you would think I would have known what to do when I was in a car accident recently.

Well, I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not do everything I should have done at the accident scene. I didn’t follow my own advice.

Maybe that’s because even minor accidents such as mine are unexpected and upsetting.

What I needed, and something which may also be valuable to you, is a very simple list of the 3 most critical things to do at the accident scene.

I have previously written a detailed list of all the things you should do at the scene of your car accident. But this article will be limited to the 3 most important things you must do at the scene. If you do these 3 things your rights will be protected even if you overlook some details.

Of course, if you have been seriously injured, your only focus should be on getting care for your injuries. Don’t worry though. If you have been seriously injured, the police will be involved and they will conduct an investigation and write a report which includes all the information you need.

When you have been in a car accident which has not resulted in disabling injuries, do these things . . .

1. Call The Police

Even if you have a minor accident, call the police.

Police can provide medical care or arrange for it.

In addition, police are trained accident investigators and they will make sure that the relevant information is gathered and exchanged. They may prepare a report that will include all the important information you will need to make legal claims.

If they come to the scene, talk only to the police. And make sure to learn when and how you can get a copy of the police report.

However, if you have had a minor “fender bender,” the police may not come to the scene even if you call them. If the vehicle damage is minor and non-disabling, no one has been injured and there are no obvious violations of the law (such as drunk driving), the police probably won’t come to the scene, especially in busy urban areas.

If the police do not come to the scene, here’s what you do after you are in a car accident . . .

2. Exchange Information With Other Involved Drivers

Identify all other drivers who were involved in the accident and exchange this information with each one . . .

  1. Name, address and phone number. Email address too. Look at the other driver’s license to verify their identity. I even recommend making a picture of the other driver’s license with your phone camera.

  2. Name of insurance company and policy number. Verify this information by looking at, and photographing, the other driver’s insurance card.

  3. Identifying information about the car that caused your accident. To be able to show that the car that caused your accident is covered by the drivers’ insurance policy, note the vehicle’s make, model and year, as well as its license number (including the state). Get this information from the driver’s registration card. I recommend making photos of the registration card and the car.

    If the other driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance card have inconsistent information – such as different addresses – reconcile the differences. If you can’t, call the police.

3. Record What Happened And Make Pictures

Write down everything you learn when exchanging information with the other driver(s). Don’t trust your memory. And, as I have recommended, photograph documents such as the driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance card, as well as the vehicle involved in the accident. It would also be a good idea to take a picture of each other driver (to be able to identify them later, if necessary).

As soon as possible after the collision, also write the key facts of what happened. Note where, when and how the accident happened. Note the street you were traveling on, a nearby street number and a cross-street if there is one. Include information about the direction the cars were traveling when the car accident occurred. Make a diagram.

Make photographs of the cars, preferably before they are moved so your photos will show their positions on the roadway.

Make pictures that show the damage to the vehicles.

Safeguard your notes and photos. (I know that is obvious, but you’d be surprised how many clients come to my office and tell me they made notes or photos, but cannot find them. (Accidents can be that upsetting.)

One more thing. I’ve recommended taking pictures of relevant documents, things and even people. But don’t provoke a disturbance over this. If the other driver objects, simply call the police and let them handle the recalcitrant driver.

That’s it. Those are the basic 3 things you must do at the accident scene. If you do these things, you will have all the information you need to make legal claims.

To learn even more about what you should do after you are in a car accident, read my list of dos and don’ts at the accident scene.