person driving car while holding cell phone

Getting rear-ended is not unusual. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accident, making up about 29% of all crashes each year.

You can never be completely prepared for a car accident. It’s almost impossible to avoid feeling a little rattled and unsure of what to do after you’ve been rear-ended, but keeping a checklist will help calm your nerves and keep you focused on what needs to get done.

8 Things to Do Following a Rear-End Collision

Rear-end accidents are all too common and are frequently caused by things like speeding, traffic congestion, distracted or reckless driving, mechanical failure, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Ideally, all involved parties will be honest and strive for a fair and reasonable outcome after a rear-end crash. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and you can’t necessarily rely on other drivers, to tell the truth, or do what they say they’ll do at the scene. That’s why it’s important to follow specific steps after a rear-end accident to ensure you limit your financial and legal risk.

Knowing what to do immediately following a car accident of any kind can help protect you and your interests. Here are 8 steps to take after you’ve been rear-ended:

  1. Check for injuries.
  2. Move to safety.
  3. Don’t admit fault.
  4. Notify the police and file a report.
  5. Take photos of the scene any damage to your car.
  6. Exchange information with all involved drivers and witnesses.
  7. See a doctor to treat any injuries.
  8. Call your insurance agent.

1. Stop and Check for Injuries

First and foremost, stop your vehicle… if it’s not already stopped, that is. A majority of rear-end accidents actually involve a stopped car. If you hit a parked car, or your car is hit while parked, it’s important that you stay where you are and exchange information with the other driver.

If, however, you’re in the middle of a highway or other major road when you’re rear-ended, pull off the road if it’s safe to do so, but never drive away after your car has made contact with another driver’s car. Regardless of who’s at fault, it’s your responsibility to stop, make sure everyone is okay, and exchange information.

Before you get out of your vehicle, check yourself for injuries, and check on any passengers. It’s common for people to feel shaken up after an accident, especially if airbags deploy, which tends to happen when a collision occurs at 8-14 miles per hour. Give yourself and your passengers a minute to breathe and then double-check that everyone’s alright.

2. Move to Safety

After you’ve been rear-ended, it’s important to prevent any further accidents from occurring. This is especially important if the crash occurs on a highway since other cars will be passing the scene at high speeds. If it’s safe to do so and your car is in the way of traffic, carefully try to move it to the side of the road. If not, turn your hazard lights on and move yourself and any passengers to safety before talking to the other involved driver(s) and calling the police.

3. Don’t Admit Fault

If you get rear-ended, it’s always the other driver’s fault, right? Usually, but not always. In most instances, the driver who rear-ended the other vehicle is the at-fault party. But this isn’t always true. Common exceptions include situations where the driver of the lead car was reversing, making a risky maneuver, or slamming on their brakes with no warning.

That’s why attorneys agree that you should never admit fault at the scene of an accident. Once you admit fault, you and your insurance company become legally responsible for paying damages. It’s better to avoid taking responsibility at the scene and instead simply ensure everyone is alright and exchange information.

4. Notify the Police

One of the first things you should do after being rear-ended is to call the local police or sheriff’s office. Even in the case of a minor fender-bender, it’s generally a good idea to call the police to the scene. It’s important to have an accurate record of what happened, and an investigating officer will document the scene of the accident and file a report.

5. Take Photos of the Scene and Any Damage to Your Car

Our memories are far from reliable. Even recalling an important and memorable event like a car accident relies on a reconstructive process that’s vulnerable to distortion. Even if you think you remember the exact make and model of the vehicle that hit you and exactly how your car was positioned, you may be wrong. Memory can be inaccurate. Photos depict reality much more reliably.

Take lots of photos of the scene and any damage to your car or the other driver’s car. Rear-end collisions can often cause damage that’s not immediately noticeable. Here’s what to look for:

  • Frame and bumper damage
  • Trunk damage
  • Alignment issues
  • Transmission damage
  • Electrical damage

6. Exchange Information With Drivers and Witnesses

Generally, if the police are called to the scene of an accident, they’ll collect all the relevant information to include in their accident report. Whether or not the police are called to investigate the accident, it’s a good idea for you to obtain essential information from all involved parties and keep a file of your own.

Here’s the information you should obtain:

  • Full names of all involved parties (drivers, passengers, and witnesses)
  • Addresses of all involved parties
  • Phone numbers of all involved parties
  • Insurance providers and policy numbers of involved drivers and passengers
  • Driver’s license information of involved drivers and passengers
  • License plate numbers of all involved vehicles
  • Makes, models, and colors of all involved vehicles
  • Date, time, and location of the accident

7. See a Doctor to Treat Any Injuries

Even minor accidents can cause bodily injury. It’s not unusual to be so distracted or shaken up immediately following an accident that you don’t notice the injuries you’ve sustained. You may find that you have medical concerns resulting from a rear-end collision that you didn’t notice at the time. If you notice any injuries, pain, or discomfort at the time of the accident or after, seek medical attention.

You don’t have to be in a major crash to become injured. In fact, low-speed accidents can result in substantial force to your neck and head. Whiplash is commonly caused by rear-end collisions, even those that occur at low speeds, and can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Neck stiffness and/or pain
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or tenderness in the shoulders, upper back, arms, or fingers

8. Call Your Insurance Agent

After an accident, there’s a lot to think about and do, and notifying your insurance provider might not be the first thing on your mind. You may be wondering, though, how long you actually have to call your insurance company after you’ve been rear-ended.

Unfortunately, there’s no universal answer to this question. Most insurance companies simply require you to report an accident “within a reasonable amount of time.” That said, most providers require that you’ve reported the accident to the police within 24 hours. Once you’ve reported the accident to the local authorities, you should follow your state’s requirements and any timeline stipulated in your insurance policy.

Whether you speak to your insurance company from the scene of the accident or days after, there are a few things you should say, and not say. Here are a few tips when it comes to calling your insurance company:

  • Don’t assume blame; even if you think the accident is your fault, there may be mitigating factors.
  • Let them record the call — refusing to let the call be recorded indicates you have something to hide.
  • Don’t mention whiplash, even if you have it; mentioning whiplash immediately can trigger skepticism as to whether you’re telling the truth.
  • Avoid saying you’re “fine” or “not hurt,” even if you don’t have obvious injuries, since soft-tissue damage or chronic pain can take time to become a problem.

Get your car repaired at Mackin’s Auto Body.

As the PNW’s most reliable, trusted auto body collision repair shop with over 75 years of experience, we know how to help you get through the stress and difficulty of an accident. We offer accident resources and we know how to work with all insurance providers to handle claims.

We’re here to help. Call us at 1-800-653-0665, contact us online, or bring your car to one of our 9 Portland/SW Washington locations.