Car accidents can happen at any time for a ton of different reasons. Other motorists might not be disciplined as you are, or maybe you’re just having a rough day and couldn’t think clearly for that split second. Nonetheless, the risk of being in a road accident is something that drivers should always be prepared for.
Unfortunately, after a car accident, things can get so confusing that you’d probably have a hard time thinking straight. Even when it’s just a minor bump between two cars on a small street. Nerves start to come into play, tension rises and both parties are likely to fight for their own case. While it is general instinct for people to defend themselves, there are other ways, and more proper ways, to deal with a car accident.
These are the things you need to do to be more prepared in case of an accident, as well as the steps you should follow if you’re involved in one.
Be Prepared Before It Happens
You never know when an accident might occur, so it’s important to be ready. Obviously, you need to have your insurance information, vehicle registration and license with you. In addition, it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit in your car. You never know if you’ll need it.
- Your accident emergency kit should at least include:
- First aid kit
- Seat belt cutter and window breaker
- Flares, reflective triangles
Additionally, you can include these for extra measure:
- Something to take photos with (besides your smart phone)
- An auto accident report form (or at least a pen and some paper)
- A medical allergy and conditions card for yourself and regular passengers
- A list of contact numbers for local law enforcement
Step 1: Make sure everyone is safe
Before being triggered into an angry state, mind the safety of your passengers. Safety should be your number one priority when an accident happens, so before you do anything else, make sure that everyone involved is okay.
Check with each and every person involved in the accident, passengers included. If someone is hurt, don’t hesitate to call 911 immediately. If somebody seems unresponsive, groggy or unsure if they’re okay, call 911 anyway. A lot of injuries from car accidents can be internal, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
It’s also important to keep your cool at all times. Especially when the accident wasn’t your fault, you might feel the urge to get angry and yell at the other driver. Almost all of the time, this won’t go well. Blaming the other person might make it harder to deal with them. Furthermore, getting angry narrows your mindset and makes it harder to think at a time when you need to be as aware as possible.
Step 2: Gather necessary information
As a general rule, the driver who crashes into your car is responsible for reporting the accident to his or her car insurance company. However, make sure you contact their insurer as well. Motorists who cause accidents are often reluctant to report them.
It’s vital to get complete information on the other party at the accident scene. Collect the following:
- Other driver’s name and address
- Other driver’s insurance company name and policy information
- Statements and contact information from witnesses
- Pictures of the accident scene.
- Use your smartphone or any other device that can take a photo as evidence of what happened before possible tampering from outside elements can occur.
In this way, you can gather evidence at the scene to support your case and position on the cause of the accident. Sometimes, insurance companies are advanced in terms of mobile technology and accessibility. Check to see if your car insurance company has a mobile app that can help you document the accident while at the scene. Some of the best car insurance companies have apps that come with an accident checklist and tell you how to best gather information so you can make a proper claim with it.
Step 3: Notify the right people for the job
Once everyone is safe it’s time to get the police involved, even if it’s only a minor accident. Make sure you contact the local police for the area you’re in or the highway patrol if you’re in an urban area. When they arrive, you need to provide:
- Your driver’s license
- Your vehicle’s registration card
- Evidence that you are financially responsible for the vehicle
- Your current address (if it’s different than the address on your license)
You then need to fill out an accident report and provide information on the place and time of the accident, the other driver’s information, and an explanation of injuries and property damage.
After that, you should inform the other person’s insurer that you have been involved in a crash with one of their policyholders. Relay only the facts of the accident, even if you believe the other driver to be at fault.
At this point, the police would now determine who is at fault for ticketing purposes. Independently, the insurer makes their own determination of fault, which may or may not match law enforcement’s assessment of fault. The insurer also takes into account critical documents such as the police report, driver and witness statements and physical evidence.
Although you may feel that you have not caused the accident, you should contact your insurance company anyway. This establishes your good-faith accident-reporting effort and can aid you if the other party’s insurer denies responsibility for the accident, and you need to make a collision claim.
According to Cars.com, it’s also good if you “Ask the police for a copy of the accident report. It may take up to a couple of days before it is filed. The officer’s opinion of the accident will be useful if the drivers have a dispute about who was to blame. The police report will also have the officer’s information on it in case the officer is needed to testify.”
Step 4: Ask Your Insurer
Even if you’re not at fault, you can make a claim with your insurance company for payment of damages and injuries, especially if you have the right coverage. Some insurance coverage may also provide you with free or at least affordable towing company privileges for your troubles.
If you have collision insurance, which should be mandatory for anyone nowadays, file a claim with your own insurance company. Normally, the insurance company pays for the cost of repairs or total loss of your vehicle. If you take this approach, you would have to pay your collision deductible for repairs. However, you may get that money back if your insurer is able to settle with the other driver’s insurance company. Again, it depends on the coverage that you have with your insurance policy.
If it turns out the other driver is uninsured and you have Uninsured Motorist Coverage Property Damage (UMPD), you can make a claim for your vehicle’s damage. There is no deductible for UMPD claims. Your car insurance rates aren’t necessarily going to increase at renewal time if you make a claim under your own insurance policy for an accident that wasn’t your fault.
Most state laws prohibit insurers from surcharging policyholders or raising their premium rates for accidents in which they weren’t at fault. However, those laws do not preclude your insurer from dumping your policy at renewal time if you’ve made a few recent claims of any type.