If the first thing that comes to mind is a four-letter word, take a deep breath. Keeping a cool head in the face of an accident is important if you want to save yourself some hassle and cash in the aftermath. Follow these five steps from the editors of Consumer Reports to minimize further damage and expenses:
Move your car out of the traffic if you can.
Turn on your hazard lights, get out of your car and stand at a safe distance away from the vehicle while you talk to the other drivers or wait for the police.
Check yourself and other passengers for injuries.
It's easy to miss or overlook an injury, so do a thorough once-over and get medical attention if needed.
Call the police.
It's a good idea to get the police involved, especially if there is a lot of damage. When you meet with the police, get the officer's name and contact information. Don't leave the accident site until you have the accident report number for future reference.
If there are other drivers involved, be sure to get the following information from each of them:
name, address, phone number, driver's license number, license plate number and insurance information. If there are witnesses, get their contact information, as well. Keep a record of anyone with injuries. This is just information gathering -- "don't argue over who is at fault or admit blame," say the editors at CR.
If you have a cell-phone camera, this is where it comes in handy. Get pictures of the scene. If there are no cameras around, draw a diagram illustrating the positions of each car.
By Marshall Loeb