Being involved in a car accident is not a pleasant experience. You may come away with injuries. You may be worried that you caused someone else’s injuries. You might stress about the financial implications of the accident. Perhaps you’re in a situation where you can’t function without your vehicle.

There are a number of concerns that come to mind when you think about the effects of a car accident. Being prepared is the best thing you can do to alleviate the stress and to manage the aftermath of a car accident.

Isn’t being prepared for a car accident kind of morbid? No, not at all. With the number of cars, trucks, buses, bikes and scooters on the road, especially in Auckland, there is a high likelihood that, at some point, you will be in a car accident.

So knowing ahead of time what to do after a car accident is the best way of getting through it with minimal stress and anxiety.

Assess the Situation

When an accident happens, we immediately go into a state of tension. That might be fear, anger, frustration, panic, etc. So the first thing to do is to stop and try to calm yourself.

There is a list of things you can do right away to take control of the situation and to use that tension in a productive way.

Check for injuries and call for medical attention if needed

Rather than looking for blame or getting angry, focus on checking that everyone is okay. This includes drivers, passengers and possibly even pedestrians or cyclists beside the car(s).

Call for medical attention if it’s needed. The first priority is to make sure that those who need help are looked after.

By the way, this is why people have those “baby on board” signs on their vehicles. Check all vehicles involved for babies or infants who may need assistance or medical treatment.

Move to a safe location, if possible

Once everyone is looked after, move people off the road if you can safely do so. If someone is seriously injured or is complaining of back or neck pain, it may be best not to move them. Similarly, if someone is trapped in a vehicle, it may be safest to leave them until emergency services personnel arrive.

But if it’s safe to do so, move people off the road so that they aren’t at risk of getting hurt by other passing vehicles.

Turn on hazard lights and set up warning devices

Whether you move the vehicles off the road or not depends on the severity of the accident. If it’s a relatively minor nose-to-tail collision or fender bender, it may be best to move the vehicles off to the side.

Before you move any vehicle, take photos (see below).

If you’re not able to move the vehicles completely from the road, turn on the hazard lights to let other motorists know that the cars have been involved in an accident.

If there is glass or other debris on the road, put down cones or other markers if possible. Consider asking someone to direct traffic or slow down oncoming cars using hand signals or a makeshift flag (using a rag or jacket, for example).

Reporting the Accident

It’s important to know who to call after a car accident.

According to Waka Kotahi, the NZ Transport Agency, if someone is hurt, you must tell a police officer as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after the crash.

Call the police

In New Zealand, 111 is the emergency number for Police, Fire and Ambulance. You must call emergency services on 111 if someone is hurt in the accident. If you’re not sure, it’s best to err on the safe side and call.

Exchanging information with the other driver(s)

If the police are called, they will record the details of all parties involved.

If no one is hurt, you must give your name, address and plate number as soon as possible but no later than 48 hours after the crash to:

  • the owner or driver of any other vehicle that’s been damaged
  • the owner of any property that’s been damaged.

If you can’t find these people, you must tell a police officer as soon as possible and no later than 60 hours after the crash.

If it isn’t your vehicle, you must also give the name and address of the owner of the vehicle you’re driving.

Take photos of the accident scene, damages, and injuries

Before you move any of the vehicles involved in the accident, take photos of the accident from several different angles. This includes the vehicles involved (including bicycles, scooters, etc), the injuries of people involved, and the scene of the accident.

You may need these if there is any discrepancy later on about what happened, what damage was caused, what the driving conditions were when the accident occurred, etc.

Get witness information, if possible

Try to remember to look around for witnesses as soon as possible. Once you’ve checked that everyone is alright, and called for medical if needed, take a look around to see what bystanders or other drivers are close by.

They’re the people who are more likely to leave or drive off once they see that everyone is okay. So try to spot someone who witnessed the car accident before they leave.

Kindly ask them if they wouldn’t mind staying around for a few minutes to help provide information. If they have to rush off, ask if you can have their name and number in case you need information at a later time. Most people are willing to help, especially if you approach them politely asking for help.

Report the accident to your insurance company

You must notify your insurance company about the car accident. They can then guide you through the next steps to take.

Failure to report a car accident to your insurance company may nullify your insurance policy if they discover at a later date that there was an unreported accident that caused faults or damage to your vehicle.

Get Your Car Towed and Repaired

If you cannot safely drive your vehicle from the accident site, you will need to have it towed to a mechanic or panel beater.

Choose a reliable towing service

Tow truck drivers get a bad rap, but most of them are genuinely trying to help. This is where preparation and planning are also important.

To find a reliable towing company, start by talking to your insurance company. You’ll want to do this ahead of time. There may be specific towing companies that your insurance policy partners with. So ask ahead of time and keep that information stored in your phone or in the glove box of your car.

The other option is to call the AA, the New Zealand Automobile Association Inc. If you’re a member of the AA, towing may be part of your membership benefits. They can also give you reliable advice about who to call for towing.

Find a reputable repair shop

After a car accident, your vehicle may need repairs done or parts replaced. Even if you cannot see any visible damage, we always recommend that you bring your car in to be checked. There may be structural damage that you cannot see.

Mt Roskill Collision Centre is a team of expert Panel Beaters and Mechanics in Auckland who specialise in collision repairs.

We can take care of all car repairs, body, painting, and detailing work for cars and other vehicles. We will help you get back on the road quickly, with your car restored to an as-new condition.

Document all repair expenses

It’s important to keep track of all expenses related to the car accident. These expenses may be covered by your insurance company, or the insurance company of the other driver(s) involved. So make sure you get quotes and receipts for all expenses incurred.

If you have any other questions or concerns about what to do after a car accident, please get in touch with us on 0800 227 762 or email [email protected].