What should I do after an accident?

March 18, 2019 by PEMCO Insurance

young person on cellphone after car crash‚ÄčTires screeching. Horns blaring. An abrupt jolt. You've just been in an accident.

Now what?

If your first instinct is to apologize profusely to the other driver and call PEMCO, you need to read this! How you react in the adrenaline-fueled moments after a crash can make a huge difference in ensuring the safety of everyone involved, and it could affect how responsibility for the accident is determined. Here's what to do and when:

The first five minutes

  • Stop your car.
  • Keep your cool.
  • If anyone is hurt or you're not able to move your vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • If possible, get your car off the road to reduce the chance another car will run into you. Stand aside, well away from traffic. If it's not possible to move your car, turn your flashers on and/or set up flares to prevent further accidents. A flashlight may also be of help.

The next 20 minutes

Exchange and gather information. Don't comment on fault (even if you think you might be to blame) or discuss your policy limits. Let the authorities and insurance companies sort that out.

Use your smartphone camera as much as possible. For all cars and drivers involved, get clear, close-up detail of:

  • Drivers' licenses
  • Vehicle registrations
  • Proof of insurance cards
  • License plates
  • Witnesses' business cards
  • Accident scene photos showing damage, position of vehicles (if they haven't been moved to the side of the road), weather conditions, skid marks, debris in the road and unusual circumstances like construction detours or road hazards.

Get phone numbers for all drivers, passengers and witnesses. It's critical to collect contact information at the scene. That other driver who seemed so cooperative may have a change of heart later!

The final 10 minutes

In some instances, law enforcement won't be dispatched to the scene unless someone is injured or the vehicles are inoperable. If you or the other driver decided to contact law enforcement and the dispatcher told you the authorities would be coming, wait until they arrive and answer questions. Once you're finished, ask for the:

  • Officer's name and department (city, county or state)
  • Report number, if one is issued.

Also, take note of the time, street names, direction of travel and approximate speed of the vehicles involved. That will help in the final step.

From a safe place, away from the scene

  • Contact PEMCO online or call 1-800-GO-PEMCO anytime, day or night, to report the collision. All that information you captured on your phone will give us a head start in processing your claim and getting your life back to normal.
  • Go online to complete a Vehicle Collision Report in Washington or Traffic Accident and Insurance Report in Oregon, or visit your local police station to get a form. Unless the officer made a report at the scene, you must complete one if anyone was injured or damages appear to exceed $1,000 in Washington or $2,500 in Oregon. You have four days in Washington and three days in Oregon to file your report.

Visit for links to other information you need to know.

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