42308955 - teenage driver making phone call after traffic accidentYou felt a bump, a crash, a thump. What do you do next?

The answer to that question can be difficult in the moments after a collision. No matter how serious the collision is, you’ll undoubtedly find your heart racing and mind spinning as you consider what just happened. One of the most important things to do—and likely the hardest thing to do—is to stay calm. We understand how difficult this can be. We hope you never need this, but we want to help put you at ease just in case you are ever in an accident.

If you’re involved in a car accident, the first thing to do is take a deep breath. Get your composure and make sure everyone is OK. Start with your vehicle, then check on those in the other vehicle. If you have any concerns about injuries, call 911 for an ambulance. Should you call the police? Most of the time, even if it’s only a minor fender-bender, you’ll want to report the accident. It will make things much easier when it comes to getting things repaired. However, there are times—for example, in winter weather events—when you might be told to exchange numbers and insurance information without the police coming to the scene.

While you wait for help to arrive, make sure you and your passengers are in a safe place. Use your vehicle’s hazard lights to help other motorists see you. When it’s safe to do so, document the facts about the accident, noting how many people and vehicles were involved as well as specific damages or even weather-related conditions. Calling your insurance agent would be a great idea.

Avoid discussing the particulars of the accident with those in the other vehicle. Be caring and compassionate. Make sure the occupants of the other vehicles are safe. But only talk about the accident with the police officer and your insurance company. The minutes and hours after a car accident can be an emotional time and you may not be thinking clearly. That’s why even if you feel like the accident is your fault, refrain from telling anyone you’re responsible. Let the authorities and your insurance company sort through the facts.

As much as we wish accidents would never happen, they do happen. They happen every minute of every day, with more than 6 million crashes each year in the United States. So stay safe and know there are people just a phone call away who can help you when the need arises.