What to do after the accident

Auto accidents can happen to anyone, no matter how safe a driver they are. Whether it’s a minor fender-bender in the neighborhood or a more serious collision on the highway, there are a few things you should always do when you’ve been involved in an accident. These tips will help you know what to do if the unexpected happens, so you can stay calm, get the help you need, and move forward with any necessary auto insurance claims.

1. Get help

The most important thing to do can also be the most challenging—stay calm. First and foremost, take care of yourself and others. Check yourself for any injuries and then do the same for your passengers and anyone else involved in the accident. If anyone involved requires medical attention, call emergency services right away.

2. Do what’s safe

Safety should be your main priority in the event of an accident. If possible, move your vehicle to a safe area and turn it off. If you keep cones or flares in your vehicle, this is the time to use them. Set the cones or flares out to warn oncoming traffic of the hazard and to create a safe area for yourself.

3. Call the police

Even in a minor accident, it’s important to call the police; in fact, it’s mandatory in some states. Contacting the police helps ensure the safety of all involved and filing a police report is a crucial part of the claims process down the line.

4. Document the scene

Things can happen fast after an accident. Documenting the scene while you’re there helps you remember the specifics of how it occurred. Take photos of the accident, including different perspectives of the scene and your vehicle. Record eyewitness accounts if possible, asking people to explain the events of the incident. And be sure to check with officers about how to get a copy of the police report once it’s filed.

5. Collect necessary information

Collecting pertinent information on-site might seem like a chore, but if you need to file a claim, you’ll be glad you have everything in one place. Here’s a handy checklist of information to gather:

  • Full name and contact info of the parties involved
  • Insurance company and policy number
  • Vehicle description (make, model, year)
  • Driver’s license & plate number
  • Location of the accident
  • Eyewitness contact information
  • Name & badge number of police officers who responded to the scene

6. Notify your insurance provider and file a claim

As soon as possible after everyone is safe and the police report has been filed, call your insurer and begin the claims process. Your Nationwide representative will take it from there, and you’ll be able to log into your account to track the status of your claim.

How to prepare beforehand

Accidents are unpredictable but you can be prepared to handle one, should it happen. Here are some things you can do now, that will help you handle the process of dealing with an accident in the future:

  • Get a car safety kit [2] and keep it packed and in your vehicle. Include cones or flares, general first aid, and bottled water.
  • Keep important documents in the car at all times, including your proof of insurance.
  • Make sure your phone is charged when you head out on the road.
  • Make sure your auto coverage is up to date and that you have the coverage you need. Check out Nationwide Auto Coverages to learn more.

Keep a roadside emergency kit in your vehicle. Some items to include:

  • Charged cell phone.

  • First-aid kit. As well as an assortment of Band-Aids, it should include adhesive tape, gauze pads, aspirin, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream or ointment, and anything particular to you or your family.

  • Fire Extinguisher. It should be rated for Class B and Class C fires by the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA. The NFPA says Class B fires are those that involve flammable or combustible liquids, such as gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene. Class C fires involve energized electrical equipment such as switches, panel boxes and batteries.

  • Three reflective warning triangles. While many prepackaged emergency kits contain one warning triangle, Crosby suggests you have three that are placed 50 feet apart to warn oncoming traffic.

  • Tire gauge.

  • Foam tire sealant. A quick, inexpensive way to repair many flats without changing the tire.

  • Jumper cables. They should be at least 10 feet in length and coated with at least 8-gauge rubber.

  • Flashlight and extra batteries. The flashlight should be waterproof.

  • Gloves

  • Rags

  • Duct tape. It is the universal fix-it solution. Carry at least 10 feet of it.

  • Tow strap or tow rope. It should be strong enough to tow 6,000 pounds.

  • Multipurpose utility tool. This can be something like a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army Knife.

  • Rain poncho. Even an inexpensive plastic poncho is better than nothing when changing a tire in the pouring rain.

  • Drinking water.

  • Nonperishable snacks. Protein bars are a good choice.

  • Warm blanket.

  • Snow shovel.

  • Cat litter. It works as well as sand beneath the tires for traction and weighs less.

  • Windshield ice scraper.

More information on creating an emergency kit for your vehicle can be found here: Emergency Kit Video

For convenient access to your important insurance information, download your company’s mobile app:

Thanks for looking, drive safe!