10 Common Mistakes Too Many People Make After a Car Accident

A car accident can be scary, but taking charge of the situation can prevent issues later on.

woman sits on the road near the broken car
Updated May 28, 2024
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A car accident can occur at any moment. Will you know what to do if it actually happens?

There are many things you can do to prepare now. It's crucial to see how you can save money on car insurance and get great coverage. It’s also wise to create a checklist to keep in your car so you remember what to do right after a wreck. Your insurance company may even provide one to help you out.

But before you create that checklist, read through this list of common mistakes you need to avoid after an accident so you don’t end up creating problems that will catch up with you down the road.

Not taking photos

Monkey Business/Adobe male motorist taking picture of damage for insurance claim

Most people have smartphones with a camera, so make sure to use this handy tool after an accident. Taking photos gives you evidence in the event of legal issues. Photos also can help your insurance company determine the extent of the damage after the accident.

Pro tip: If your insurance company sends an adjuster or other representative to check out the damage, remember to ask for a copy of their photos as well as their report for your own records.

Not writing down notes

rh2010/Adobe woman calling road assistance after the car collision

It is easy to forget key facts about the accident in the days or weeks after the actual crash. As soon as you can after the accident, write down notes about what you remember from the event and other potential facts that could be relevant.

Creating a record of the accident details when they are fresh in your mind could be helpful as you work through the claims process.

Posting to social media

escapejaja/Adobe hand using smartphone with social media

One of your first instincts may be to post about the accident on your social media accounts. This can be a bad idea and may even put you in legal jeopardy if your case goes to court.

It also can reveal information that your insurance company might use against you.

Limit any talk about the accident to the professionals who are working with you to settle the claim.

Not exchanging information

Fractal Pictures/Adobe frustrated couple giving explanations to a black cop

After an accident, exchange insurance information with other drivers who were part of the incident.

Keep your insurance card in a handy place like your glove compartment so it’s easily available in case of an accident.

Waiting too long to file a claim

Freedomz/Adobe insurance agent examines damaged car

You may wish the accident would just go away, especially if you didn’t suffer substantial damage. But insurance companies prefer you to contact them as soon as you safely can after the wreck.

Delaying a claim might cause issues with your insurance company. So, get on the phone right away and let your insurer know what happened. Then, closely follow the insurer’s instructions for filing a claim.

Pro tip: Purchasing the right car insurance is one of the best ways to protect your bank account. Don’t skimp on this important coverage.

Leaving the accident scene

PhotoSpirit/Adobe car crash with police

Never leave the scene of the accident. Get to a safe place out of traffic, exchange insurance information and wait for police to arrive.

Even if your instincts push you to flee this unhappy event, remain calm and do the right thing by staying put until it’s appropriate to leave.

Not filing a police report

motortion/Adobe car drivers and policeman near wrecked autos

Some insurance companies may require a police report, so call your local police department as soon as possible after the accident.

When the officers arrive, they can take statements from the drivers and advise you on what to do next. You also can get information from them about how to obtain a copy of the report so you have it for any insurance claim you file.

Accepting responsibility for the accident

Kadmy/Adobe upset man after car crash

Who was responsible for your accident? That’s something for police officers, your insurance company, and others to decide.

You should never apologize at the scene of an accident, because that can be considered an admission of guilt regardless of whether or not the accident was your fault.

Instead, simply disclose relevant factual information about the accident. There is no need to go overboard.

Giving too much information to the insurance company

makibestphoto/Adobe man signing car insurance document

Insurance companies can help you get your car in running condition again. But claim agents, adjusters, and other insurance company employees work for the insurer, not for you.

Give your insurance company the information it needs, but stick to the facts and basic evidence. Answer the questions that need to be answered, but don’t volunteer more information than is necessary.

Underestimating possible injuries

Dragana Gordic/Adobe doctor examining patient wearing neck brace

A collision can cause injuries. So, seek out a medical professional after an accident if something doesn’t feel right.

Delaying treatment can affect how well you recover. It also might cause problems with medical insurance or auto insurance claims.

Bottom line

Paolese/Adobe people checking car damages after car accident

Accidents can be scary situations, but there are things you must do to make both you and your car whole again. Doing the right things can help you avoid wasting money by steering clear of potentially costly mistakes.

So, take a breath. Then, work with professionals to gather key information, have your car repaired and get back on the road.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.