Every driver will get into at least one accident in their lives. You might hit a tree taking a turn too quickly. You are likely to have several fender benders in your lifetime. A surprising number of people are literally hit by scammers, too. Here are a few things you must do and absolutely must not do after a car accident.
In the Immediate Aftermath
Do not leave the scene. That is a crime in and of itself. In fact, if you witness a car accident, you're supposed to stop and check that those involved are alright before driving off. If you are the one who hits or has been hit, you are legally required to stop and make sure no one needs medical attention.
Suppose you don't need to call an ambulance. You're legally required to exchange insurance information. We'd recommend delaying that step until you've taken pictures of the scene, the people and the vehicles involved. This allows you to document the road conditions that contributed to the accident. It may prove they were driving someone else's car or using someone else's ID. It proves the identity of the passengers and witnesses present. It documents the severity of their injuries and damage to the vehicles. It also prevents them from driving off once they have your insurance information, especially if they want to avoid the police. Once you've exchanged information, call the police.
While You're Waiting for Police
You've taken pictures. You've exchanged insurance information. If possible, move your car out of the way so it doesn't block traffic. We recommend this after you've taken photos of the accident scene. Call your insurance company to inform them of the accident. They may or may not get an adjustor out quickly. They may be able to send a tow truck to your location at their expense through a roadside assistance program.
One item often left off lists regarding what to do after a car accident is calling an attorney. An attorney can give you advice on how to handle a police report. They can describe the process so you aren't afraid to give your side of the story. They'll outline the information you should include in the police report and the personal conjecture to leave out of it. They can give you advice on the type of doctor to see regarding potential injuries and outline the claims process you'll go through with your attorney.
Furthermore, they'll help you avoid major mistakes that can kill your case. For example, you shouldn't give someone money, because it may be taken as an admission of guilt.
After the Police Report
Only the police can prove that someone was driving drunk or stoned via a field sobriety test, and only the police can arrest someone for driving under the influence. The police will handle that, if it is the case. Only the police can detain someone for driving without a valid license or car registration. But we'll suppose that's not an issue, only the damage to your vehicle.
You will generally be given permission to leave after giving your statement. Record the officer's badge number and name so that it is easier to request a copy of the police report later. That information is also useful if the police don't bother filing a report, since it proves you had an officer present.
You can arrange for your car to be taken home or to a repair shop. Then you can research your options for getting a medical assessment done. For example, too many people assume aches and pains will go away when they've actually suffered whiplash or a concussion.