“Mom/Dad, I’ve been in a car accident.” It’s a phone call no parent or guardian ever wants to receive.
Car accidents are stressful no matter who is involved, but when it’s your child, it can take the stress to another level. On top of the possibility that your teen or anyone else has been hurt, there is the general uncertainty around what to do after an accident.
Below we provide some practical advice on steps that can be taken both before and after the car crash to help reduce anxiety and stress.
What to do immediately after the accident
Stop and take a deep breath
Chances are that your teen is a bit panicked and in shock – no matter how minor the accident. Encourage them to take a couple of deep breaths and let them know that you are there for them. Remind them that a car is a material thing and the most important thing is that they are okay.
There are quite a few things that need to be done after an accident and it’s much easier to do them with a clear mind. Anxiety and panic might make your child want to bolt from the scene, but that will only cause more problems in the long run.
Check if everyone is okay
Find out if they or anyone else is hurt. If someone is injured, call for an ambulance if this hasn’t already been done. You will need to know where your child is to get an ambulance to them. So tell them to try to find a street name or any landmarks you may know of or they could drop you a location pin via WhatsApp.
Make yourself visible and move out of harm’s way
Hazard lights should always be put on if possible. Then, if the car is drivable and your teen isn’t injured, they should try to move the car out of the way of oncoming traffic to the side of the road or highway, so that they are out of harm's way. If possible, your teen should try to safely put the emergency triangle about 50m away from the back of the car so that other cars can see that there is an incident.
And then if your child can, they should try to move away from the car so that they are safe if another driver should crash into their stationary car.
If they are hurt, encourage them to stay as still as possible until help comes, and to keep their seatbelt on at all times.
Call the police
If someone has been injured or killed in the accident, the police must be called to come to the scene. It’s also important to call the police if anyone is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If your child isn’t injured, and they are able to, tell them to take photos of the scene of the accident, the damage to both (or more) cars, car licences, licence plates, the licence of the driver(s) involved, as well as the police report (if police are requested to be on the scene, otherwise you do this when you report the accident at the police station).
Encourage them not to get caught up in a discussion with the other driver/s about who is responsible for the accident. Rather tell them to focus on swapping contact details, as well as insurance information.
If there were any witnesses, tell your child to get their statements (an audio recording on their cell might be easier) as well as their contact details. You should also ask your child if there are any cameras pointed at the scene. CCTV cameras that are covering the scene of the accident could be a huge help. Remember to take pics of each camera to note their locations.
Arrange a tow truck if your car isn’t driveable
If you have insurance, call your insurance company’s emergency assistance line to order a tow truck to tow the car. It’s likely that other tow companies have already arrived on the scene, but don’t let them move your car until you have spoken to your insurance company. By going through your insurer, you are ensuring that all associated costs are covered.
If you don’t have insurance you can look up a tow truck on Google. But keep in mind that it can get expensive to tow your car. So try to get a quote before accepting any tow truck service. It is also important to make sure you know where your car is being taken.
Otherwise, there is an AA membership you can sign up for which will help you if you have a roadside emergency.
What to do now that the dust is settled and everyone is safe
Monitor for injuries
Injuries caused by car accidents sometimes only show up after the panic and adrenaline have eased – particularly neck and back injuries, as well as concussions or whiplash. If your teen has any discomfort days after the accident, it’s best for them to see a doctor as soon as they can.
Report the accident to the police within 24 hours
If there were no police at the scene of the accident, you’ll need to head to a police station to file an accident report ASAP – unless your teen is injured and in hospital.
Filing a police report needs to be done within 24 hours of the accident and should be done at the police station nearest to where the accident happened.
TIP: Always try to snap a photo of the police report if you can’t get a copy of it.
Contact your insurer
You should report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible. If the insurance is in your name and you are specified as the regular driver of the car, contact your insurer yourself and describe the accident in detail. If your child has their own car insurance, they will need to contact their insurer themselves.
Assess the car
If you don’t go the route of filing a claim with your insurer, you should still make sure to have a professional mechanic take a look at the car, even if it seems to have been unaffected by the accident. Dekra Auto offers this service via online booking.
What you can do beforehand
Know what your car insurance covers
Cover differs by insurer – some insurers only provide coverage for named drivers (ie. they will only provide cover if you have explicitly added your child onto your policy), some apply additional limits in the case of young drivers (like an additional excess if your child is below the age of 25 or if they have had their licence for less than two years), and some (including Naked) will simply provide the same level of cover and excess as if you yourself were driving.
Knowing exactly what is covered and what isn’t can provide peace of mind and prevent inadvertently exposing yourself to unnecessary risk.
Going through the above list with your teen when they first get their licence is a good idea to help them be better prepared to handle the situation in the unfortunate event of an accident.
Advanced driving course
There are also things that you may want to consider to reduce the chance of an accident in the first place, including having them attend an advanced driving course.
As much as we’d like to keep our children safe all the time, there are times when we can’t. But the best thing you can do is to keep calm and be there for them. Car accidents are often traumatic and can be even more so for those just starting to enjoy their freedom as young adults. If there are any other questions you might have, here are some of our other blogs that may be able to answer them for you.