What Should You Do Immediately After a Car Accident?

Car accidents are harrowing experiences that often leave you rattled. Even minor fender benders can cause significant distress, especially those involving property damage or an injury.

The trauma is especially acute in the moments right after the incident. Ironically, these are precisely the times you need clarity to make good decisions that help your case or settlement. Consider nine factors to keep in mind for what to do immediately after a car accident.

1. Take a Moment To Calm Down

Making the right decisions requires a clear head. Doing that is easier said than done after a crash. You can take some practical steps to calm yourself and regain composure.

  • Take deep breaths. Focus on your breathing and count to 10 to reduce any anxiety or fear from the incident. Breathing exercises can induce calm and a sense of control.
  • Talk to someone. Briefly speaking with a friend or family member can help you process your emotions and come to terms with what happened. Remember to call someone who can calm you, not excite or agitate your feelings.
  • Make a quick journal. A few quick notes about your thoughts and feelings can be a great release and clarify things. You will have to collect notes and evidence from others after the event anyway. There is nothing wrong with jotting or recording a few notes to yourself to recenter.

A few moments to recalibrate after an accident can put you in the right direction.

2. Check for Injuries

Before calling the authorities, take a moment to assess the condition of those in the area. Start with yourself and determine if it is safe for you to move. Look for signs of physical pain and pay attention to sensations in your body. The rush of adrenaline may mask feelings of discomfort.

If you are experiencing pain, stiffness or swelling, seek medical assistance immediately. From there, check if any passengers in your vehicle show signs of distress, such as complaining of a headache, neck pain, backaches or difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these signs, have the individuals examined by medical personnel.

Moving a person with severe spine or head injuries is dangerous. Before transferring an injured person, try to verify the extent of the wounds. Knowing the scope of the situation can help you provide better information and receive the right direction when you call for medical help.

3. Move to a Safer Location if Possible

New York law requires parties to stay at the scene of a serious accident until law enforcement clears them to leave. You do not want to travel too far from the crash site, but you should try to be in a location where you pose no danger to yourself or other travelers.

If your vehicle is on the road or dangerously close to pathways, do what you can to get on a shoulder or a nearby spot where you will not present a risk. Hazard lights, road flares or other reflective pieces can warn other drivers and alert them to move cautiously through the area.

If a fire starts or you sense any danger of a possible explosion, get a safe distance away from the vehicle. Help others to do so as well. Such a danger is one instance where it might be appropriate to transfer a person who is unconscious or suffering from another head, neck or back injury.

4. Call 911 if the Accident Is Serious

New York only requires those in an accident to call the authorities if a driver damaged the property of an unknown owner or if there is injury or death of a person or domestic animal. If all drivers can exchange necessary details and only property damage occurs, the parties do not have to call the police.

If the collision caused over $1,000 in damages, the Department of Motor Vehicles must receive a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident within 10 days from all involved drivers. Failure to do so can result in a suspended driver’s license.

However, those who experience an accident should not quickly assume there is no injury. Unless a person is sure that the incident was of low impact and no damage occurred, motorists may do well to err on the side of caution.

5. Exchange Contact Details With the Other Parties

New York City requires drivers to exchange the following information after a collision:

  • Driver’s license information
  • Insurance details
  • Vehicle registration

Try to ascertain other helpful facts. A phone number, email address and even social media handles will help you contact the person again later.

Check for any inconsistencies or oddities. For example, if the insurance information does not match the car’s driver, see if you can determine the relationship between the driver and the owner. If the policy appears to be out of date, make a note of that but do not become confrontational with the other driver. Avoid conversation with a person who becomes belligerent.

Remain calm and agreeable. You will likely get more cooperation. Do not make any statements about fault or negligence. Such expressions could haunt you during a settlement negotiation or trial.

Also, try to get information from witnesses who saw the crash. Audio or video record their version of events. Get their names and a number or email address so you can contact them later.

6. Document the Scene

You can support any potential claims or liability regarding the incident with good information. Take photos of the scene from all angles. Get close-up images of any damages that occurred on your vehicle and the other one, if possible. Skid marks, debris and traffic signs, like stop signs or posted speed limits, can be helpful.

If you have a dashboard cam, remember to keep it activated for capturing footage. Ensure you have enough data on the memory card for the event.

Some insurance companies have apps that help you capture notes, images and videos after an accident. Carefully decide if you want to use such software. The companies likely have access to whatever you save and can use the information as evidence against you. By saving data to your own cloud or device, you can maintain control of your narrative.

7. Speak to an Attorney

Alert a competent car accident attorney about your situation. Lawyers, like the team at Cellino Law, may be able to remind you of evidence you need to collect or what to avoid saying to law enforcement or the insurance company. The firm will do a complimentary case review as soon as possible.

8. Contact the Insurance Company

Honesty with your insurance provider is vital, but you do not need to provide any more information than necessary. Carefully weighing your words can be a protection. Even something as simple as an apology can imply fault and complicate your case.

Avoid making assumptions about how you could have prevented the accident. Such statements could give your insurer grounds for denying coverage. As long as all communication with your insurer is factual and accurate, it can process your claim fairly.

9. Determine a Reliable Law Firm Before an Accident

Numerous law firms claim to be able to help accident victims. Still, few have the level of talent and experience as Cellino Law. The team at the firm represents over 60 years of practice and has won over $2 billion for clients. If you have a car accident case to settle, reach out to the team at Cellino Law for a free case evaluation.



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  • I am so grateful for your expertise, patience, and perseverance which resulted with such a successful settlement regarding my car accident. I also want to let you know how impressed I was with you and your firm and I won't hesitate to recommend you to anyone who needs assistance from an accident. I truly appreciated your care and professionalism. Thank you again for your kindness and support


  • Cellino Law and more specifically my attorney, Gregory V. Pajak, Managing Attorney, and as a whole the Cellino Law Firm and its organization. This is by far one of the most professional law firms and attorney I have ever engaged with and retained in my 35 years. The level of professionalism goes beyond words, the care and constant engagement with me as the client was touching. I was never ever just treated as simply a CASE with potentially a significant dollar number attached to my file. I was engaged regularly, Tracey (Ass’t) and Greg always made sure to remain constant, as well as consistent in overseeing that my case was handled properly and that it did matter in many ways - ensuring that the end result(s) would be fair and reasonable to my case/injury. The regular follow-up calls were very satisfying, knowing that you’re involved in your case matters significantly AND always. One of my main items to recognize Cellino Law and Gregory is that whenever I called, I was able to get through to speak directly to my Lawyer and he would answer any if not all of my questions in a very professional and genuinely caring manner. I always felt cared for and protected legally and more importantly, I was made feel as a human being that was being cared for and always keeping me abreast of all matters connected to the case. There was never a point I felt let down, on the contrary -the level of service was “STELLAR”. Greg is the consummate professional, a ‘role model’, if you will, for what other attorneys should strive to become when dealing with their clients.


  • This is to express our gratitude to you and your team in helping us and Stephanie navigate through the legal process following her car accident. We are very satisfied with the outcome and grateful for your hard work and attention to details. We fell confident that with this compensation, Stephanie will be able to move forward with her studies and her life with the ability to care for some of her health needs resulting from the injuries sustained following her car accident. Thank you very much and may God continue to bless your efforts.

    Jose & Rose

  • I highly recommend Cellino Law to anyone involved in a car crash. I worked with Michael Lovecchio, and had a wonderful experience given the circumstances. He was very attentive, and got the best possible outcome I could have wanted.


  • Cellino Law is an amazing firm with a great team. I worked with Greg Pajak and his assistant, Tracey Falconer. I cannot express enough how dedicated they are. The personal attention I received was excellent; they were always available to help with questions and concerns and put me at ease in the unknown territory I found myself in. I highly recommend them to anyone needing representation. A huge thank you to them for all they accomplished for me!


  • Choosing the right attorney to represent you after an accident can make all the difference. This is no cliche. I recently experienced these words to live by first hand. After a tractor trailer rear ended me at high speed in 2017 I retained Allan Silverstein to handle my case. I quickly realized that bringing a lawsuit rapidly snowballs into a mountain of details that can make or break your results. Documents, case histories, doctor visits, bills, and lots of phone calls all need to be accurately kept track of if a successful outcome it to be attained. To complicate matters I reside in New York and the incident took place in New Jersey. Luckily, Allan was licensed in multiple states. I was fortunate to find Allan to handle this matter from the New York area. Armed with an accurate account of the facts Allan went to work on the difficult job of negotiating with the defending insurance company as well as my no fault carrier in order to obtain the best possible outcome for my set of circumstances. In a lawsuit communication is key and and events can be of a timely nature. Allan never failed to return my calls - usually the same day! He fought skillfully and respectfully to get me the best possible settlement. He is easy to deal with and a likeable down to earth guy. He always listened with compassion and respect to my issues. He guided me with objective understanding as well as a realistic analysis of the merits of my case. When we finally settled Allan got me a fair agreement beyond my expectations and negotiated with my doctors to make sure all my bills were paid. It was a great experience having Allan represent me. Quality work in any aspect of life is hard to find. Quality is what I got with Allan Silverstein. I highly recommend him if you find yourself in need of a personal injury attorney.