Unfortunately, most people who drive are going to have at least one automobile accident in their lifetime.
Knowing what steps to take when an accident occurs will help you to protect yourself and to make sure that you are getting the most out of your automobile insurance policy.
Keep a copy of this article, the vehicle registration, insurance ID card, phone number of your insurance agent, and phone number of your insurance carrier’s claims department in the vehicle at all times in one easy to locate place. This way, when an accident occurs you can easily access all the important information you will need.
1) Do your best to not panic. Staying calm is the best way to make sure that you handle the situation to the best of your ability and don’t forget any important steps.
2) Check to make sure everyone in the vehicle is OK. If someone is injured or if you suspect that someone may be injured, call 911 right away; or if your vehicle is equipped with Onstar press the “911” button to get immediate emergency help.
3) Do not move the vehicle from the place where the accident occurred. Often, people who are involved in a minor “fender bender” type of accident will move their cars off to the side of the road. While it may be helpful to avoid blocking traffic, moving your cars can lead to problems for you with your insurance carrier depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. In most automobile accidents, insurance carriers ultimately deem both drivers to be at least partially responsible – but there are situations where the accident is deemed to be 100% the fault of only one of the drivers involved. Moving your car may result in the police report inaccurately describing what actually happened, and this could result in your automobile insurance carrier incorrectly deeming you partially responsible for the accident – which may result in higher automobile insurance costs going forward.
4) If the other vehicle(s) leaves the scene of the accident try your best to write down the license plate number, color, make, and model of the other vehicles involved. While you can certainly attempt to take a picture of the other vehicle(s) license plate as they are leaving the scene, it is often safer to write the information down as it eliminates the possibility of you not getting a good picture of the license plate.
5) Call 911 and request that a police officer come to the scene of the accident and complete a police report. It is important to get a police report at the scene of the accident whenever possible, even if you feel that the accident is very minor. This will minimize the possibility of the other involved party lying about what happened, which could result in your insurance carrier applying a “chargeable accident” to your automobile insurance policy – which in turn can lead to higher automobile insurance costs for you going forward. Even if the other involved party decides to leave the scene of the accident before a police officer arrives, you should always stay and give the police officer your account of the accident so that there is an official police report of the incident.
6) Collect information from the other involved vehicles. Regardless of whether or not a police officer comes to the scene of the accident, you should always record the following information for each vehicle and driver involved. In order to eliminate errors, it’s best to request that each driver allow you to record this information directly from their documentation rather than dictating it to you, and of course you should allow each other driver to collect your information as well.
– License plate number (the easiest way to do this is to take a picture of the license plate)
– Year, make, and model
– Vehicle ID number (VIN) which can be found on the vehicle registration
– Driver’s name, date of birth, address, driver’s license number, and state of issue which can be found on the driver’s license.
7) Call your insurance agent or insurance carrier claims department. Call your insurance agent or carrier to seek advice on what to do next. Understand that if you do not call your agent or the insurance company at the time of the accident, you are not giving up any rights you have under your automobile insurance policy. However, failing to call may result in you doing something that could lead to an extra expense for which your carrier may not reimburse you – for instance, having the car towed to the wrong location and then having to have it towed again.
8) Determine whether your care is drivable. In the event that you cannot talk to your insurance agent or your insurance carrier’s claims department, ask the police officer if he/she thinks the car can be safely driven. If the car is deemed safe to be driven, drive the car to your home or to your preferred auto body shop. If the car is not deemed safe to drive, then have the vehicle towed to your preferred auto body shop or if you do not have one, ask the police officer for a local recommendation. The reason you should have the vehicle towed to a body shop, rather than to your home, is that an un-drivable vehicle is eventually going to need to be towed or flat-bedded to a body shop in order to be repaired. If the car is towed to your home and then needs to be towed to a body shop, you will be incurring two towing bills instead of one – and some of this expense may end up coming out of your own pocket. Don’t worry if the body shop you choose is not the body shop that actually ends up doing the work; you can always have the vehicle moved to the body shop that will be doing the repair work later if necessary.
Automobile accidents happen, but filing an insurance claim doesn’t have to be an arduous process. By securing all the necessary information at the scene of the accident, completing an accurate police report, and communicating with your insurance company efficiently, you can get the most out of your automobile insurance policy.