Whether you’ve been directly involved or passing by the scene of an accident, there’s always a chill that runs down your spine. There is something about the combination of sirens and shattered glass on the road that always ensures a pang in the stomach for everyone.

Regardless of what’s happened, we all experience some kind of emotional response after witnessing or experiencing an accident on the road. The most obvious symptom of this is shock, disbelief or anxiety. However, it is vital to remember that these reactions are totally normal, and it may take a few minutes to take stock of what’s happened, let the spike in stress levels subside slightly and work together to determine what to do next.

If you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident but are not seriously injured, here are a few handy things you should do right away to objectively assess the situation and protect yourself from liability:

1)  Call for help

If you’re not seriously hurt, your first action should be to call for help. Normally this would be a family member or loved one. Let them know what has happened, where you are and what kind of help you need. If possible, your second call must be to alert the police and emergency services.

2)  Get the basic details you need for insurance

While you wait for the police to arrive, make sure that you get the essential details of the driver of the other vehicle and other passengers (if applicable). These include their ID number, full names, phone number and email address. Time permitting, try to get these from other witnesses, police officers and other emergency services professionals too.

The more details you have of people who were actually there, the stronger and more likely your claim (and possibly case) will go in your favour.

During these exchanges, it is imperative that you keep focused on dealing with the business at hand. This means not admitting blame or saying or doing anything that will incriminate or hinder you in anyway. It sounds obvious, but different people have different reactions to stressful situations. Once again, the key here is to be calm.

3)  Assess the extent of the damage to the vehicle(s) and the scene

Don’t leave anything to chance. Do everything you can to record the conditions of what has been involved in the accident. Take photos, write down descriptions and ask witnesses for references.

4)  Know about the 24-hour window period

When it comes to making statements, reporting the accident and obtaining the all-important case number to begin insurance proceedings, make sure that you get this done within a 24-hour period. Delaying this beyond 24 hours may not bode well for the eventual outcome of your claim. This includes alerting your insurance provider to what’s happened.

It goes without saying, but be absolutely transparent and as detailed as possible in your interactions with them.

5)  Before leaving the scene, make sure you have all the details you need

As best you can, do a last-minute check on all the details you’ve gathered.

We recommend that you do what you can, and no more. As long as you have the essential details from as many people as possible on the scene, and, of course, everyone’s own well-being in hand, you have the best chance of getting through the unpleasant ordeal as smoothly as possible.

It’s never easy, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be able to make the best of this unfortunate situation.

Learn more about CompCare Medical Scheme, visit www.compcare.co.za