Question: What should a person do if involved in a crash?

Answer: If you’ve never experienced it, count yourself lucky: The sickening thud that accompanies a car crash. The days — and sometimes weeks or months — of dealing with doctors and mechanics and insurance adjusters. The sinking feeling that if only you had left a little earlier or put your phone down or turned your headlights on, this might not have happened.

But crashes happen every day in Minnesota: The State Patrol alone has handled more than 41,000 so far this year.

So it’s important to know what to do immediately after one happens. You might even want to print out this column and leave it in your glove compartment.

The first and most important thing to do after you’ve been involved in a crash is to get to a safe place. Worry less about “preserving the scene” for law enforcement and more about protecting yourself and your car from further damage, especially if you’re on a highway or interstate. For the latter, this could mean driving (if possible) to the nearest off-ramp or underpass. If your car isn’t drivable, stay inside it, but move to the passenger’s side, so that there’s more room between you and traffic.

As soon as you’re safe, call 911. Even if the crash seems minor, you’ll need a police report for your insurance company. Once first responders are on the way, you can start talking to the other driver. Be courteous — you’ve both been through a traumatic situation —but don’t talk fault. Instead, exchange information.

Here’s what you’ll need to know about one another:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • License plate number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance company name
  • Insurance policy number

Then take pictures, both of the damage itself and of the accident scene (but, again, try to do so safely). At that point, first responders should be there, and then you can start filling out a crash report.

Once you have a report number, you can call your insurance company. And if you can, see a medical professional. You may feel OK right after the crash, but injuries can show up after the adrenaline wears off.

The best way to deal with a crash is to make sure it never happens in the first place. So be sure to put your away distractions when you drive, find a sober ride if you’ve been drinking, obey all speed limits and wear your seatbelt.