What To Do If You’ve Been In A Car Accident 

A woman on her cellphone after a car accident. Her damaged vehicle is out of focus in the background.

Driving a vehicle is probably the most dangerous mode of transportation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2021 alone, there were an estimated 42,915 reported fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents. That’s an average of 118 lives lost per day just in the U.S. 

The importance of having a vehicle emergency kit

When you’re involved in a car accident, it can be a jarring experience, and typically, it’s difficult to think clearly because you may be in a state of shock. That’s why it’s not only imperative to know what to do to protect your rights if you’re involved in a car accident; it’s also wise to pack an emergency kit in case of a collision. Your vehicle’s emergency kit should include the following:

  • A cell phone
  • Pen and paper
  • Your medical information — including any prescription drugs, allergies, or medical conditions
  • A list of emergency contacts
  • Reflective cones and/or warning flares
  • A first-aid kit
  • Your vehicle’s insurance card
  • The name and number of a personal injury attorney

Although we all do our best to prepare for the worst and drive responsibly, car accidents still occur. Worse yet, they can result from a number of factors that are beyond our control, such as drivers talking on cell phones, speeding, texting, reckless driving, failure to obey traffic signals, defective vehicles, or driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. When you consider all of the dangers on the road, you can understand why it’s wise to be prepared.

What to do if you’ve been involved in a car accident

If you are involved in a car accident, you will likely feel shock followed by fear, anxiety, and anger. All these emotions are normal after being involved in a traumatic event like a car accident. There are important steps to take immediately following a car collision. It may be helpful to write this checklist down and keep it handy in case of an accident:

  • Attempt to compose yourself by taking a few deep breaths
  • Assess yourself for injuries (note that not all injuries are visible)
  • Decide if it’s safe to exit your vehicle
  • Note if you are injured or if you can’t get out of your car
  • Keep your seat belt fastened
  • Switch on your hazard lights
  • Call 911 immediately and give the emergency dispatcher this information:
    • Your name and phone number (in case authorities need to reach you)
    • As much detail as you can about the accident, for example, how many vehicles and people are involved, any medical emergencies or immediate dangers
    • Give your exact location — the city, street name, nearest intersection, and direction
    • And finally, stay on the line until the dispatcher has all of the information they need to locate you
  • Wait for emergency response to arrive

If you are uninjured and the collision is minor:

  • Turn off your car’s engine
  • Get your emergency car kit
  • Place reflective warning cones or emergency flares around the accident site to alert oncoming traffic

Next, if you are feeling well enough, follow these steps to secure evidence and protect your rights:

  1. Use a GPS to identify your location
  2. If you haven’t already, call 911 and report your location
  3. Check on potentially injured persons
  4. Stabilize those who need immediate medical assistance
  5. Photograph damage to all vehicles involved in the collision as well as any distinctive features of the road or intersection
  6. Draw a rough sketch of the crash site — including the location of each car, the direction they came from, what lane they were in, etc.
  7. Record the date, time, and weather conditions
  8. Photograph all other drivers involved in the traffic collision
  9. Take down license plates and insurance information — ask to see their driver’s licenses, record names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance companies, insurance policy numbers, and license plate numbers
  10. If any drivers don’t own the car they were driving, be sure to get the owner’s information
  11. Take a complete list of people involved — including other drivers, witnesses, and reporting officers
  12. File a police report with the proper authorities

When to report a minor accident in Colorado

We encourage everyone to report any accident in Colorado — even if it’s considered minor — because the law requires it. Colorado law requires the reporting of all accidents resulting in property damage or injury. In fact, failing to do so could result in misdemeanor charges.

From there, it’s up to the responding officer to decide whether or not to write a report. However, as someone involved in an accident, it’s your responsibility to let the authorities know.

What to do if the accident was a hit and run

If you were involved in a hit-and-run accident, there are still steps you can take to protect your rights. Most importantly, gather all the information you can and call the police. Look for witnesses and nearby cameras. You might be surprised by how many hit-and-run offenders are actually caught. For more information, refer to our in-depth article on what to do in a hit-and-run accident.

Discuss your car accident claim with a lawyer

a personal injury lawyer is in the background, out of focus, while working on her laptop.

Regardless of the seriousness of your car accident, you will need to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who will discuss your rights, tell you how to secure the proper evidence, and ensure your protection in the event of an automobile accident. Smartphone applications, such as “My Lawyer” (from Bachus & Schanker), can be uploaded for free to your Android or iPhone as a preventative measure. If you are involved in a traffic collision, the app is instantly at your fingertips with all of the vital information and tools, including:

  • An accident checklist
  • Tips and checklists that help you catalog and organize photographic evidence
  • Detailed steps for documenting fault, property damage, and injury
  • Information for collecting witness and insurance information
  • A quiz to test your legal knowledge
  • An overview of your legal rights
  • A phone number for a free consultation
  • A free initial case inquiry submission

The car accident attorneys at Bachus & Schanker are always on call to take on your case. We will guide you through the process of filing a claim and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.


Distracted Driving. (2022).

Koya, H., et al. (2022). Shock.Newly Released Estimates Show Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021. (2022).

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