6401 Odana Road
Madison, WI 53719

What to do After a Wisconsin Auto Accident

By Sally A. Hestad -- Madison, WI


Wisconsin personal Injury lawyer and former insurance claims adjuster, The author offers a free consultation to anyone who has questions about the claims process after an auto accident. You may contact her at (608) 273-1600 or by email
(Read more about Sally A. Hestad)

• Remain calm.
• Make safety your first concern.
• Call the police. Write it down!
• Stay there!
• Afterwards

Auto accidents can happen to anyone, even careful, safe drivers. If you find yourself in an accident, knowing what to do will make the experience less frightening and frustrating - and will minimize the chance of complications later on.

Remain calm. Make safety your first concern.
If your car is still running after impact, turn off the engine.
Were you hurt? If you were injured, take care of yourself. Do not move if you have serious injuries, or if you feel dizzy. Ask someone to direct traffic so that your car will not be hit again. Ask someone to call 911 to summon the police and rescue vehicles. Was anyone else hurt? If you were not injured, or if your injuries are minor, check to see whether anyone else was injured in the accident - drivers, passengers, or pedestrians. If anyone is injured, summon the police and an ambulance by calling 911. If it is safe for the seriously injured person to remain in the vehicle, you should not try to move him or her. Instead, tell the injured person that help is on the way, and wait with the injured person until help arrives.
Is anyone in further danger?
? If  traffic is heavy you may decide to move your car off the road so that you won't block traffic or be hit again. If the car is disabled, if someone is injured, or if people can't get out of the car, leave the vehicles where they are, and direct oncoming traffic around the scene of the accident to prevent further accidents until the police arrive.

Call the police.
Call the police if there were injuries or damages of $1000 or more to the vehicles in any accident. Cooperate by telling the police officer exactly what happened. Do not admit blame to the police or to the other driver. The police officer will make sure that an ambulance has been called (if needed), that the accident site is cleaned up, and that traffic is safely rerouted. The officer will investigate the accident by interviewing the witnesses and then will write a report - ask for the report number so you can later obtain a copy of the report for your records. Finally, the officer may issue a citation (ticket) to the driver who appeared to have caused the accident.

Write it down!
Because the police report will not be available for several working days, you should write down information at the scene of the accident. That way, you will have the information you need to proceed with your insurance claim, including requesting a rental car, if needed. Ask for and write down the other driver's name, address, phone number, driver's license number, license plate number, and insurance company name and policy number. The police officer may assist you in obtaining this information. Also write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of anyone who witnessed the accident. This can prevent disagreement about how the accident actually happened. Either at the scene or when you get home, write down everything you remember about the accident. Where did it happen? At what time did it happen? How did it happen? What was the weather like? What were the road conditions? What objects or other vehicles may have blocked the view of the drivers? What makes of cars were involved? What were the damages to your car and to the other cars involved? Did you hit your head or other part of your body on part of the interior of the car? What parts of your body were painful after the accident? Writing this down while the accident is fresh in your mind will help you better describe the accident to the police, to your doctor, and to your insurance company.
Important: Do not sign any forms or agreements or statements at the scene of the accident other than those given to you by the police!

Stay there!
Let us imagine that you accidentally run a red light and hit another car, and that someone in the other car is injured and has to go to the hospital. If you stop and call 911, when the police arrive, they may issue you a citation for running the red light. Now, let us imagine that, instead of stopping, you drive away, or leave your car there and run away. When the police department's investigative work links you to the accident, not only will you face a citation for running the red light, you may face additional penalties for the injuries you caused, for leaving the scene, for abandoning your car, and for failing to provide aid.
For leaving the scene of an accident, you may end up going to jail! Driving away from an accident you are involved in is very serious, says Sgt. Dan Olivas of the Madison Police Department. Even if the accident was your fault, even if you don't have insurance, even if you were driving without a license, even if you were driving someone else's car, even if you were intoxicated - no matter how much trouble you are afraid you will have if you stick around, the trouble can be much worse if you leave before the police arrive. How much trouble depends on the scope of damage and injuries caused by the accident. Depending on your history, says Sgt. Olivas, if you are convicted of hit and run, you may have to do jail or prison time, be on probation and/or parole, or both. Leaving the scene of an accident when serious injury is involved is a felony - like rape or murder - and is punishable by large fines ($1,000 or more) and prison time (a year or more).

If you were injured in the accident, see your doctor or go to the hospital immediately. If you wake up in pain the day after the accident or notice bruises beginning to develop, see your doctor as soon as you can. Sometimes, injuries do not become evident until days, or even months, after the accident. Take pictures of the damage to your car. If your car was towed away from the scene, ask a friend to drive you to where the car was towed and take pictures of it there. Continue to write everything down.

Often, what comes after an accident can be as stressful as the accident itself. Soon after the accident, you will begin receiving phone calls and letters from insurance claims adjusters and investigators; you will be sent forms to fill out and sign. You will face car repairs, or your car may be a total loss. You may find yourself in traffic court or civil court. You might miss some work. You might have some bills to pay. If you keep good records, you will be in a better position to deal with the accident's aftermath. Write down the name and phone number of each person you talk to in this process, the date of the conversation and a few notes about what was said.

Was the accident your fault? If you have auto insurance, call your insurance agent and report the accident. Your insurance company will investigate the accident and handle any claims for car damage, medical bills and other damages. If you don't have auto insurance, the other person will probably contact you, and will expect you to pay for car damage, medical bills, lost work time and pain and suffering out of your own pocket. In addition, the state of Wisconsin will require you to carry insurance in the future.

Was the accident NOT your fault? If you have insurance, start by giving your own insurance agent a call. You will then need to contact the other driver's insurance company to make a claim for your car damage, your rental car, and to inform the company that you were injured in the accident. Dealing with the other driver's insurance company can be confusing. You may need an advocate or an interpreter.

Do I need a lawyer? Many people do settle their auto accident claims without a lawyer. These people need to talk to the insurance adjusters about their damages, read and sign forms, and negotiate their own claims. If you don't feel confident doing these things by yourself, you can hire a lawyer who specializes in settling claims. A lawyer will handle all of the forms, letters, and phone calls for you, will gather your medical records and bills, will evaluate your claim, and will negotiate your settlement with the insurance company. In addition, a good lawyer will explain the claims process so your questions are answered. In exchange for this service, you generally pay the lawyer a percentage of the settlement you receive. This is called a contingent fee. If a lawyer agrees to take your case on a contingent fee basis, he or she will receive their fee when you receive your settlement. This means that you do not need to pay money up front to hire a lawyer to assist you with your accident settlement.

The author, attorney Sally A. Hestad, offers a free consultation to anyone who has questions about the claims process after an auto accident. You may contact her at (608) 273-1600 or by email
(Read more about Sally A. Hestad)

What To Do After An Auto Accident © 2009 Sally A. Hestad

  • What to do in case of an accident check list.
    • Check for injuries.
    • Administer first aid and call an ambulance if injuries are serious.
    • Protect people from oncoming traffic.
    • Call the police.
    • Write down names, addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses.
    • Exchange information with other driver(s):
         Name, address, phone number Driver's license number
         License plate number Auto insurance company name and policy number
    • Jot down notes about the accident.
         How it happened
         Makes and models of cars involved
         Weather and road conditions
    • Damages to vehicles and property

To help you make the decision whether or not to hire an attorney, ask for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. 

Call Sally A. Hestad, Injury Attorney and Former Claims Adjuster for your free consultation.
Phone: (608) 273-1600



Hestad Law Office, 6401 Odana Road, Madison, WI 53719     (608)273-1600
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Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is general in nature. It is not intended as a substitute for legal advice pertaining to the facts of a specific claim. Receiving or reading this web page does not establish an attorney-client relationship. An attorney-client relationship is established only if we agree to represent you and you sign a contract with Hestad Law Office. This website is not intended to be a solicitation for cases outside of the state of Wisconsin.