Crash Course: How to Handle an Auto Accident

car crash

Content provided courtesy of USAA.

A car crash can really shake you up. But keeping a clear head and making smart decisions at the scene can keep a bad situation from getting much worse. 

Do's and Don'ts for the Scene of the Crash

In the minutes immediately following an accident, keeping your cool is key. Know in advance what you should and shouldn't do.


  • Clear the road. If your car is drivable, carefully move it out of the flow of traffic to prevent subsequent accidents.
  • Call 911 if you think someone needs immediate medical attention.
  • Call the police if necessary. Some states require drivers to contact the police after any accident. Know your local law or, when in doubt, make the call.
  • Exchange information with other car owner: name, contact information, make and model of vehicle, driver's license number, insurance carrier and policy number.
  • Take photos or video of the scene and the accident damage, if possible. Note the time of day and weather conditions.


  • Exit the vehicle until you're sure it's safe to do so.
  • Move any person who may be injured. Wait for paramedics.
  • Leave the scene of an accident until you've exchanged information with the other driver(s).
  • Apologize or admit fault, even if you think you're to blame for the accident. An apology could be used against you later, regardless of whether you were fully responsible.
  • Share details of your insurance policy — such as coverage limits or deductible — with the other driver.
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