Let’s be totally honest, getting in a traffic accident sucks no matter whose fault it was, and what the situation is. Even in the best case scenario, with a minor fender bender and no injuries, you know what a pain in the butt it’s going to be handling the aftermath.
You may consider yourself lucky to be safe, but you still know what a headache it will be dealing with your insurance, their insurance, getting your car fixed and knowing it still won’t be the same.
If you’re reading this because you just got into a car accident. The first thing you want to do IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO and you are not injured (see below) is move your car to a safe location out of the road then take photos of the damage, recording what happened.
Parking lots are a great option when trying to relocate after an accident. At this point it is best to get a video response where you and the other driver discuss what happened to set the record straight long before claims are filed and police reports are made. People tend to be more honest before the authorities show up.
If you are reading this, and you have not been in an accident recently, great job! Being prepared for a car accident is the first step you should actually take. Knowing what to do after a collision, in a time where you may not be thinking all together clearly thanks to a slur of angry, sad, and scared emotion, can end up saving you from saying or doing something that you likely shouldn’t.
Without further ado, here are the steps that you should take.
In the event of an accident, immediately:
- Be cautious: if possible, pull your vehicle off into a safe area such as a parking lot. If it is night time, go somewhere well lit and somewhat populated. If you were in a verbal altercation (or any form of road rage) with the other driver prior to the accident be very cautious when communicating with them. In these cases, it is sometimes best to call 9-1-1 before exchanging words again with this person.
If you were rear ended and think you could be about to fall victim to a carjacking, it may also be wise to call the emergency line before getting out of the vehicle.
- Verify no one is injured: Check yourself and passengers for injuries and if anyone is injured immediately call 9-1-1. While it can be tempting to immediately check on the status of your vehicle, move slowly and first make sure you and anyone who was in the car with you is alright.
In the heat of the moment, you are likely feeling the effects of adrenaline, which will inhibit you from feeling your injuries. Where did you make contact with the vehicle? Check out any of these areas for immediate bumps, bruises, scrapes, and cuts.
If you have verified everyone in your car is okay, and you believe it is safe to do so, check on the other vehicle to help the other driver and passengers with their potential injuries. Again, if anyone is injured or unconscious call 9-1-1 immediately.
- Assess the vehicle: The next thing you will want to do is take a look at your vehicle. Completely walk around your car (assuming you are in a safe location to do so) and assess the damages. If possible take photos and get a video record of yourself and the other owner discussing what happened.
- Stay at the scene of the accident: at least until the authorities arrive and tell you that the damages have been recorded in a police report. If you hit a parked car or otherwise unattended vehicle, try to wait for the owner to show up. If you cannot find them, leave a note with your name and insurance information. Leave a phone number as well so you can tell them what happened and apologize for the inconvenience.
- Collect information: you’re going to want to get as much data as possible. Get the name and phone number of any witnesses to the accident and try to get a recorded or signed statement from them on what happened.
Exchange names, phone numbers and insurance information with the other driver involved in the accident. You should also make a note of the exact location of the accident, the time of day when it occurred and the weather patterns of the day. Your phone is a great place to record all of this data whether as a note or as a video.
- Alert the police: You will want to contact the local authorities whether that is highway safety patrol or your local county police department. Having an officer on the scene can help with filing the necessary paperwork. Get the names and badge numbers of the officers on the scene and ask if you can obtain a copy of the accident report from them. If not ask where a copy will be available.
- Get Roadside Assistance: In a lot of cases, your vehicle will not be drivable after a moderate to a severe collision. You will need to call a tow truck to remove your car from wherever it currently is sitting (hopefully not in the street still). If you have AAA or another form of third party roadside assistance, give them a call and get your vehicle towed as soon as possible.
- File a police report: In some rare cases, the police may not be available to come to the scene of the accident. In these cases, it is still incredibly important to file a police report. You can drive to the nearest police department or file one on their website. You can alternatively call them if you need further assistance. It is important to file a police report so that there is an official record in the case that the other driver tries to sue you for damages or medical expenses in light of any injuries. You will also need a report for when you file your insurance claim.
- Get the claims process going: you want to call your insurance company and report your accident as soon as possible after a collision. If you wait, the details may become skewed in your mind and difficult to recall. Be sure to have the notes you took after the accident including the other driver’s information, witness reports, and a police report with badge numbers of the officers present. If you know you need to go to the doctor, tell your insurance agent, and get the necessary information for your PIP to cover the cost of your doctor’s visit.
- Visit your doctor: it is important to see a medical professional after an accident. Sometimes, victims of minor to moderate car accidents won’t feel their injuries until several hours later if not days. Record your symptoms, take physical evidence of injuries that can be visualized and make sure you go see a doctor, especially if you sustained a head, neck, or back injury. Be sure to contact your CAR INSURANCE company for the information you will need at check-in at the doctors visit. You cannot use your health insurance.
- Get your car repaired: once you have the insurance settlement you should get your car repaired. Some individuals choose not to fix their car and just pocket the settlement cash. This is typically a bad idea.
When you get your car repaired the mechanic is able to identify other more hidden effects of the car accident that may be imperative to fix. At this point you can bill your insurance company for the repairs, however, if you wait or don’t get the vehicle repaired at all, you could be driving around in a car that is dangerous to you and others.
Typically an insurance company has a list of providers that they encourage you to visit for repairs, whatever their motives may be, in most states you are entitled to choose where you want to have your vehicle repaired (or if you want to fix the car yourself). Whatever the case, if you plan on utilizing a mechanic it is advisable to get multiple estimates before deciding.
- Keep an organized record: Stay organized with your important documents after an accident. Either file away a paper copy or scan the documents into an e-file for safekeeping. Documents kept should include the information you acquired on the other party, your account and sworn statement on what happened, any photo or video evidence relating to the event of the accident, medical documentation, the police report, witness statements with contact information, and anything else you may find important.
- Get representation: It’s not a bad idea to consider getting a lawyer who specializes in car accidents and personal injury. If you are at fault in the accident and the other person sustained injuries, you want to stay ahead of the legal process by having a legal professional look over your case as soon as possible.
Preparing For An Accident Before It Happens
In the case of not having recently been in an accident there are still things you should do now to be prepared should you ever find yourself in a traffic collision.
- Have all important documentation in your vehicle: This documentation includes a photocopy of your license, your vehicle registration, and your insurance information including the name and extension of your agent. You may also consider including a folder with important medical documentation for you and your family members (blood types, allergies, any diseases or conditions you may have).
- Have an emergency kit: It’s smart to keep a small emergency kit in your car to protect your loved ones and the vehicle from sustaining more damage in the case of being stranded on the side of the road after an accident. You will want to include orange cones and emergency flares, a first aid kit, and a pad and paper to write things down should you find yourself without a phone.
- Insurance: Before you get behind the wheel of your vehicle you should know exactly what you are covered for in the event of an accident. You may want to consider comprehensive coverage and insurance in the event you are hit by an uninsured driver.
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