8 Steps to Take if Your Teen Gets in an Accident
Watching your kid grow up and take on more “adult” things, like learning to drive, is one of the great joys of being a parent. However, that excitement can quickly turn to stress and panic if your teen gets into a car accident.
Few things are scarier than an unexpected call from your child saying they’ve been in an accident. Try to stay calm, though—addressing the situation as it happens both keeps your kid safe and gives you the best chance of handling any issues before they become worse problems down the line.
To help you through, we’ve outlined a list of eight key steps to take if your teen gets in an accident, both during and after it happens.
1. Check for injuries.
The first question to ask your kid is if there are any injuries. Are they hurt? Was anyone else involved in the accident, and, if so, are they hurt? If anyone is injured, make sure to call 911 right away.
2. Move them to a safe area.
If the car is safe to drive, tell your teen to move it to the side of the road so that it’s out of the way of any oncoming traffic. If it isn’t safe to move the car or they’re injured, tell them not to try. Either way, make sure they turn their hazard lights on and stay inside the vehicle or nearby until help can reach them.
3. Call 911.
Again, if there are any injuries, make sure that either you or your teen call 911 to the scene right away. Even if there aren’t any injuries, though, it’s usually still a good idea to call 911 because you’ll likely need an accident report, both to protect your legal rights and for the insurance claims process.
4. Exchange information.
Once you know that everyone is safe, have your teen exchange information with the other driver or people involved, including witnesses at the scene. Make sure they exchange the right information and don’t provide more than they need to. They should exchange names, phone numbers, insurance company names, and insurance policy numbers, but not things like their home address or personal identification.
It’s very important to communicate to your teen to not admit fault for the accident or argue with the other driver about damages. These things will be addressed by your insurance adjuster when they investigate, so just focus on gathering the facts.
5. Document the accident.
In addition to writing down the date, time, and location of the accident, make sure your teen gets as much evidence of damage at the scene as possible. An easy way to do this is taking pictures and writing notes on their cell phone. Make sure they document:
- License plate numbers
- The vehicle’s make, model, and color
- Damage to each vehicle
- Landmarks and street signs to help document the site of the accident
- Any property damage at the scene
If police officers respond to the scene, it’s also a good idea to get the officers’ names and badge numbers, as well as a copy of the police report, or at least the report number.
If your teen was involved in a hit-and-run, it’s going to be harder to collect evidence. Tell them to wait for police at the scene of the accident so that they and the officers can document the site together. They should also try to write down what direction the other driver was headed in, and any description of the driver or vehicle they can remember.
6. File an accident report.
Once your teen is cleared to leave the scene of the accident, you can accompany them to your local police department to file an accident report. This is especially important if officers didn’t respond to the scene or if a report wasn’t already created, which sometimes happens in the case of a minor accident. Also, some states require you to file an accident report if the damages exceed a certain threshold.
An accident report gives you official documentation of what happened, which can be very helpful in dealing with legal issues or filing insurance claims.
7. File an insurance claim.
When all your immediate needs are addressed, you’ll want to file an insurance claim. Depending on your insurance company, you can usually do this through a mobile app, on the company website, or by phone with an insurance agent.
Each insurance company has different requirements for claims, so be sure to contact yours to find out exactly what you need. Generally, insurance companies look for the kinds of things your teen should document at the accident site, like descriptions and photos of the damage, the location, date, and time of the accident, and the other driver’s insurance information.
8. Check in.
When you’re in emergency mode, it can be hard to step back and take a moment to be human. However, even if your kid is physically safe, they’re probably still shaken up by the experience.
Dealing with the practical consequences of an accident puts a lot on you, and it’s a sure sign that you care for them. Caring for their emotional needs is important, too. Once this stuff is squared away, try to take some time to comfort and reassure your teen so they can get back to feeling normal.
Also, be mindful of any injuries that might show up in the days after an accident. Sometimes, injuries happen that aren’t immediately obvious. If your teen is feeling any abnormal pain or discomfort, take them to your doctor or local emergency room to get it checked out.
A car accident is a jarring experience for anybody. It’s especially terrifying when it happens to your teenage kid, and you aren’t there to help them.
If this happens to you, try to keep a clear head as you deal with the accident and the aftermath. Whether you’re able to physically be with them at the scene, or have to help them over the phone, you’re the greatest support that your teen has. With your proactive help and clear guidance, you and your teen can overcome this together.