What To Do After a Wreck

Listen to the Police. Do as they instruct. Stay in your car. If safe, get your car off the roadway. If you're hurt, seek medical attention. Immediately after a wreck is one of the few times that talking on your cell phone (while in a car) makes good sense. Get a copy of the police report. Be sure to ask for all related photos.

After you have gone to the doctor, call an attorney: If you (or your family) is seriously hurt, it makes sense to phone an attorney. Some will speak with you for free - with no obligation. Look for an experienced attorney who knows what he/she is doing - not a divorce attorney who dabbles in personal injury claims. Check with friends, the Internet (try the American Association for Justice or the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA). Disclaimer: one of this site's authors is the NBTA Alaska State Rep.) and the Phone Book. Or, call the Alaska Bar Association's free Laywer Referal Service: 800-770-9999. Remember, nobody wants to call an attorney - but it is smart to do so if you are seriously injured. The entire insurance industry is designed to grind you into the ground when you get hurt. Whether you know it or not, you need help. Call a lawyer.

Don't Give Statements To Insurers: The other driver's insurer will phone you - asking to take a recorded statement. Don't do it. They are well-trained to ask questions that will be twisted against you.

The best source of information for “what to do after a wreck” is the Alaska Driver’s Manual. We strongly recommend that you download a copy of this manual, and actually read it. You might be surprised to learn how badly you drive. For example, when turning onto a multi-lane highway, did you know it is illegal to “swing wide”? You’re supposed to turn into the closest lane, and then, only when safe, blink to change lanes. Keep an eye out for other drivers who seem to ignore this rule. You'll be amused. The police aren't...

The “what to do after an accident” section of the Alaska Driver’s Manual is summarized below. We also include a number of tips to avoid getting a beating from insurance companies:

DMV’s Suggestions

1. Stop: If you are blocking traffic, move your vehicle out of the way if possible.

2. Warn other traffic: To prevent other crashes/injuries, warn other traffic. Place flares or other road signals. Be careful not to walk out in front of other vehicles.

3. Help the injured: Help anyone who may be hurt. Do not move an injured person unless absolutely necessary. Call 911 for an ambulance. Stop serious bleeding and keep victims warm.

4. Exchange information: Exchange information with everyone else involved in the crash. Get every other driver's address, driver’s license number, license plate number, telephone number, and insurer. Get the name and phone numbers of as many witnesses as you can.

5 Call the Police: If there is an injury, or total property damage is $2000 or more, and the crash occurred within a municipality, immediately contact the local police department. If the crash occurred outside of a municipality, immediately contact the Alaska State Troopers. They're at 911.

6. Cooperate with the police: Cooperate with the investigating officer. Make sure he/she/they take photos.

7. Locate the owner: Upon striking an unattended vehicle, stop and attempt to locate the owner. If unable to do so leave a written note containing your name, address, and telephone number.

8. Report to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (DMV): Mail a written report of the crash to the Department of Administration, DMV, P.O. Box 110221, Juneau, Alaska 99811-0221 within 10 days. This report is not required if the crash was investigated by a police officer. When a wreck causes personal injury or death, or more than $501 dollars worth of property damage, you must report insurance to the DMV. You must include insurance information for all drivers, not just the “at fault” driver. Failing to notify the DMV of your insurance gets your driver’s license suspended for 90 days (first offense).