Assessing the situation after a car accident simply means taking a moment to calmly evaluate what you're facing before you act. It isn’t the easiest advice to follow in the sometimes-chaotic aftermath of an accident, but it can be very important in terms of preserving your health and safety, and also when it comes to protecting your legal rights down the line.
First, once things have calmed down a little, take time to carefully evaluate your medical condition. (Obviously, if you were knocked unconscious and wake up in a hospital bed later, the rest of this information about what you should do at the scene of your car accident does not apply.)
If you are seriously hurt, stay as calm as you can and wait for help to arrive. Don't worry about the other things that you should do at the scene. If you are concerned about things like liability and piecing together what happened, it might help to know that in most cases, the more serious the accident is, the more thorough the police investigation will be. If your injuries prevent you from doing some of the things that are recommended at the scene of a car accident, don't worry because the police will probably take similar steps, and you can get a copy of their police report later.
So, back to the subject of evaluating your condition. Are you hurt? How badly are you hurt? Be particularly mindful about head injuries and neck injuries. If you think you have a head injury or a neck injury, don't move until help arrives and your injury is stabilized. In you have what seems like a serious injury to some other part of your body, do the same thing. Don't move until help arrives and your injury is stabilized. Sometimes, movement can make your injury worse. Don't take any chances. Of course, this "don't move" advice assumes it is safe to stay in your car. If it would be dangerous to stay in your car, get out of the car if you can and move to a safer place to wait for help. (Learn more about Car Accident Injuries.)
You don't have to spend a great deal of time assessing the situation. This could all happen in a moment. But be sure to take however much time you need to calm yourself, steady your nerves and evaluate your situation before you do anything.
After you evaluate your condition and determine that you can safely move around, what you should do next depends on the circumstances of your car accident.
Prioritize and start with the most urgent need, whether it is helping someone who is injured, protecting the scene or calling the police or an ambulance. Usually, you will have help. Others involved in the accident or witnesses may be able to lend a hand. If that happens, don't be afraid to take charge and assign tasks to them. For example, ask someone to direct traffic away from the accident scene while you call for an ambulance and then assist or comfort someone who is injured.
Learn more about What to Do at the Scene of a Car Accident.