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I've Heard I Should Not Disturb the Scene of a Car Accident, but Can I Move My Car out of Traffic Lanes?

Conversations, details, memories, and thoughts can be confused and chaotic immediately following an automobile accident. Notwithstanding the blur of activity and difficulty in obtaining and maintaining clear focus amidst the adrenaline rush, there are some steps you can take to put your best foot forward. These steps can be performed in the event of a crash to help put a driver in the best possible position in terms of health, safety, law enforcement, insurance claims, and property.

What Should Be Done First Post-Accident?

The first thing to do after a car accident is to make a determination as to injuries and whether there is need for emergency medical attention. If someone is injured, call 911. Once this is done, the next effort should be dedicated to getting to a safe location. This should be done as quickly as possible and practicable. In fact, it should be done before drivers exchange and collect information from one another. The police should be contacted by one driver or party at the accident scene, once everyone is in a safe location.

Drivers Question Whether the Accident Scene Must Be Left Undisturbed

In the case of a minor wreck in which a door is scratched or bumper crumpled, or other "fender bender," it is not necessary to leave the cars impacted by the accident in their undisturbed crash locations. You can move them out of the traffic lanes. In fact, you are advised to do so, particularly in metropolitan areas. In such locales, police will generally not file an accident or incident report if there is minor auto accident. The police will instruct involved drivers to move cars out of the path of traffic, though.

There is an exception to this rule. If you are unable to move your vehicle post-accident without creating more extensive damage to your vehicle or others, it is best to leave things as is. In such cases, it is advisable to await a tow truck to do the moving. It is likely the insurance company for each driver will provide such towing service.

What Can Be Done Post-Crash to Make the Insurance Claims Filing Process Smoother?

Besides getting medical attention, getting to safety, removing vehicles from the traffic path to a safe location in the event of minor accidents, and exchanging contact, driver's license, and insurance information, there are a few other steps that can be taken after an accident to make the insurance claims filing process operate smoothly. Most are rooted in common sense:

  • Be calm.
  • If you can, take pictures with a cell phone, digital camera, or disposable camera (whatever you have at your disposal).
  • Make sure you communicate promptly with your insurance agent or broker, so that you can begin the claims process timely.
  • Promptly, thoroughly, and accurately answer all correspondence, calls, and other inquiries or requests for information from your insurer, counsel (if applicable), and police.
  • Do not comment about fault or liability or make statements at the accident scene such as "I'm sorry." Such statements can be used against you in the claims process and any litigation.