Chances are you or a member of your family will be involved in a car wreck someday. When it happens, you need to know what to do in the event of an auto accident. Print this out and keep it in your glove compartment to refer to if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision.

Long before the event that we all hope to avoid, be prepared.  Keep in your car a camera (cell phone or disposable), flash light, pad, pen, and reflective triangles or emergency flares. Print a copy of this accident information form.

While stocking your car with these items, check your auto insurance policy to be sure you have uninsured / underinsured motorist (UM) coverage equal to your liability coverage, rental car coverage, collision and comprehensive coverage to handle damage to  your own vehicle in the event you are hit by someone whose insurer refuses to deal promptly with your property damage.

In the event of a car wreck, have this checklist at hand.

  1. Turn car engine off immediately after a collision to cut the risk of fire.
  2. Turn on hazard flasher lights, and if appropriate use flares and other warning signs to alert other drivers to the accident.
  3. Call 911, even if someone asks you not to report the accident. Don’t accept offers to settle for immediate payment at the scene. That will not work out well for you.
  4. Make photos. One of the advantages of nearly universal camera phones is that it is possible to make photos of an accident immediately, before vehicles are moved. Include photos of damage to your vehicle and other vehicles, the accident location from multiple angles, and of people involved with the accident.
  5. If there are no major injuries and cars are operable, pull over to shoulder.That’s the law in Georgia.
  6. Keep calm.  Do not argue, make accusations or admit fault.
  7. Nobody needs your Social Security number, so don’t give it.
  8. Accept the offer of an ambulance ride if you are hurt at all. If you are injured, go to the hospital emergency department and follow up with your primary care physician or a recommended specialist.
  9. If another person is hurt, you may provide basic first aid, but do not move an injured person unless necessary to prevent further injury and unless you have substantial medical or lifesaving training and expertise.
  10. When a police officer arrives, be calm and cooperative.  Provide complete and accurate information.  Write down the officer’s name, badge number, police station address and phone number.  Inquire when the accident report will be filed and how you can get a copy.
  11. Do not leave the scene before the police and other drivers do, unless you are in an ambulance.
  12. Do not call an attorney from the scene as it will make you appear too eager, but if there is a significant injury call us after you have medical attention.

Ken Shigley is an Atlanta personal injury trial lawyer. Immediate past president of the 43,000 member State Bar of Georgia, he was placed on the “short list” for two Court of Appeals seats by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission in 2012, though  candidates a generation younger were ultimately chosen. He is currently  secretary of the American Association for Justice Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section, a board member of the Trucking Litigation Group,  chair of the board of the Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia and a Georgia delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates. Lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice (West, 2010-12), he has an AV Preeminent rating in Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and double board certification in Civil Trial Advocacy and Civil Pretrial Advocacy from the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (formerly National Board of Trial Advocacy). In addition, he is listed in Super Lawyers (Atlanta Magazine), Legal Elite (Georgia Trend) and Who’s Who in Law (Atlanta Business Chronicle).