What To Do Immediately After a Car Wreck

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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The least you should know…

  • Immediately after an accident, you need to call 911 and make sure the police are notified and that any injuries are attended to.
  • Gathering information at the scene of the accident is essential for successfully having your damages and injuries covered by insurance.
  • Anything spent on repairs or medical treatment in the weeks after the accident should be carefully documented as well.
  • What to do after a car wreck doesn’t need to be complicated. Our complete guide will give you everything you need.

Whether you’ve just been in an accident or simply want to be prepared, you need to know what to do and who to contact after a car wreck. We’ll make sure that you don’t overlook something that might create problems for you later when dealing with insurance so that you can focus on recovering. Even if no one was injured, a car accident is always unpleasant and traumatic.

If there were serious injuries, you’ll first want to make sure that everyone gets the medical attention they need. Usually, it’s a good idea to consult with a personal injury attorney after such a wreck. You can begin your search for an experienced personal injury lawyer near you by entering your ZIP code in our search tool above.

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

The worst time to ask “What should I do if I got in a car accident?” is immediately after you’ve gotten in one.

The first thing you should do is call 911 for police and medical help. Even if no one seems injured, an assessment by paramedics is a good idea.

When everyone is out of danger, gather and write down as much information about the accident as you can:

  1. Names, driver’s license numbers, contact information (at least home address and phone number), and insurance information for all drivers.
  2. Whether any of the drivers appeared to be drunk driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the effects you observed (such as slurred speech) and any witnesses to those effects. Witnesses are important because after any substances wear off, it will be your word against the driver’s.
  3. Names and contact information for all passengers, all pedestrians, and all witnesses, for example, the storekeeper who saw the whole accident from across the street.
  4. Any and all statements you hear about the cause or consequences of the accident. Did anyone say, “I’m not hurt?” Did anyone take responsibility for the accident, even partially, by saying, “I wasn’t looking either,” “I was distracted,” “I wasn’t wearing my glasses,” “I spilled my coffee,” etc…
  5. Location, date, and time of the accident.
  6. A detailed description of the accident, including which direction the vehicles were going before the accident, the weather and related conditions (fog, rain, darkness, ice), what happened, any injuries, what was damaged, and what the police did, especially if they issued tickets or gave a sobriety test. Drawing a diagram can help clarify what happened.
  7. Any problems with vehicles not caused by the accident, such as bald tires or a burned-out headlight.
  8. Contact information for police at the scene.

Gather as much information for the claims investigation as possible. As time passes, memories tend to fade. When you are questioned later, you’ll be glad you wrote down the details at the scene.

This is what to do after a minor car accident, too. Even if the damage and injuries ends up being less than your deductible, you can’t predict what damage and injuries might arise at the time of the accident. Better safe than sorry.

You can find our complete car accident and injury checklist here.

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Frequently Asked Questions: What To Do After a Car Wreck

Immediately after a car wreck, you should make sure to get treatment for any injuries and then follow the above guidance on what information to gather. There are lots of other questions people have, though, and we want to try to answer some of them.

What are the side effects after a car accident?

After a car accident, symptoms can vary quite a bit. Severe injuries will naturally have many serious side effects, but even when there are no apparent injuries there may be some issues that arise in the hours or days after a wreck.

According to KTAR news, what to expect physically after a car accident even when there were no serious injuries can include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Numbness
  • Change in personality or function
  • PTSD

These symptoms can appear up to six weeks after the accident and should be fully documented so that you can recover for your injuries. This is separate from knowing what to do after a car accident injury that is obvious immediately, but regardless of what you think at the scene, you should be aware that these may arise later.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, of the 6,734,000 accidents in 2018, 1,894,000 resulted in injury.

How long does it take to heal after a car accident?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how long it may take to heal after a car accident. Many car wrecks might not cause any injury at all, but others can result in lifelong injuries or even death.

It’s equally impossible to predict how long the pain lasts after a car accident. As we saw above, some pains may not even arise for weeks after a wreck, and some people may experience no pain at all. On the other hand, some people may experience pain that lasts for months, years, or even the rest of their lives.

What to do after a car accident, that’s your fault

Whether the accident is your fault or not, you should still gather as much information as possible at the scene.

Avoid saying anything that acknowledges fault as much as possible. Statements like “oh, I didn’t even see you,” or “I really should have slowed down sooner” may be used to argue that you were entirely at fault later. 

What to do after a car accident that’s not your fault

You may not be the one who ultimately decides who is at fault. This determination will be reached by the insurance companies of the drivers in coordination with the police and the drivers themselves. If you’re confident that you are not at fault, it becomes even more important to get the other driver’s insurance information.

In a fault system, the driver who’s at fault will have to pay for the damages caused to the other driver’s vehicle and their personal injuries. Therefore you should make sure you know how to contact the at-fault driver’s insurance.

Currently, there are twelve states with no-fault insurance. Michigan recently changed their laws, but remain one of the twelve. Even in no-fault states, though, it is important to document the accident in as much detail as possible.

Bringing it All Together

Right after you have a car wreck, the most important thing to do is make sure that all the people involved get whatever medical help they need. After calling 911 for police and paramedics, your next task needs to be gathering information.

You can’t count on your memory, and you certainly don’t want it to be your word against the other driver’s.

Be sure to monitor your repair costs and medical costs after the accident as well.

Did we answer all your questions about what to do right after a car wreck? 

If you determine that you should contact an attorney, you can start your search by putting your ZIP code into our search tool below.


  1. https://ktar.com/story/605000/7-delayed-injury-symptoms-after-a-car-crash/
  2. https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-highway-safety
  3. https://www.9and10news.com/2020/06/29/n-michigan-attorney-breaks-down-changes-to-michigans-no-fault-insurance-law/

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