Crash Course: What to Do If You Are in A Car Accident

by Hon. Emil Giordano

The fear of being in a car accident plagues many drivers when they get on the road. Unfortunately, it is a reality that many must face. In 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reported an average of 323 reportable traffic crashes occurred, statistically meaning about 13 crashes happened every hour, per day. Every day, 3 persons were fatally injured in reportable traffic crashes, and 191 persons were injured in reportable crashes. See the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s report on car accidents.

Hopefully, you will never be among those who must deal with a car accident, but it is essential to know what to do if it happens. This article seeks to provide a guide in case you are in an accident, however major or minor it may be.

Ensure the Health and Safety of Yourself and Any Passengers

Arguably, this is your top priority. Assess the situation. If necessary, call for an ambulance and document any and all injuries. STOP immediately and move only if it is safe to do so OR if your vehicle is in direct line of traffic and is not too damaged to move yourself.

If you suspect you’ve sustained injuries, immediately seek medical attention, and go to the hospital. The shock of the car accident may initially repress the pain of physical injuries. It is imperative that you have medical advisement and documentation to be prepared for any possible legal action.  

Get Information from the Other Driver

Exchanging information with the other driver is critical in the event of an accident. It is also important that information about any passengers in the car is noted and information obtained. Also, remember to document the other driver’s license plate.

Document the Scene with Photographs and Videos

Be sure to include any and all damage to the vehicle, any injured parties, skid marks on the road where the accident happened, and the road itself, including any traffic lights or signs.

Involving the Police

The police can be a very valuable resource for documenting the accident. The police can file a report, which will be incredibly important for any follow-up actions. Cooperate with the police but do not accept responsibility without deeper examination. If you are potentially responsible for the accident, talk to a lawyer before accepting responsibility.


Do I Need to Report My Pennsylvania Car Accident?

Under Pennsylvania law 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3746 (2023), you must report an accident to the nearest police department if the accident caused:

  • any injury or death, or
  • vehicle damage that incapacitated a vehicle or made it unsafe to drive from the scene.

If the police don’t investigate the accident, you must complete a Driver’s Accident Report Form and file it with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation within five days of the accident (75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3747 (2023)).

If the police did investigate your accident, get a copy of the police report. You can do that by making an Online Crash Report Request with the Pennsylvania State Police.

In the time following a car accident, you should immediately contact your insurance agent. Depending on the severity of injuries and damage, it would be wise to contact an attorney.

The Pennsylvania Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A “statute of limitations” is a law that sets a deadline on your right to file a lawsuit. If you try to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the court is almost certain to dismiss your case unless some rare exception applies to extend the deadline. There is a 2-year Statute of Limitations policy in place for car accidents in Pennsylvania.

If you have any questions about Pennsylvania Car Accident laws or any related matter, please feel free to contact me at

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