Car accidents can be frightening, especially if you’re not the one at fault. The first reaction is “What happened?” The second reaction is “Am I okay?” And the third reaction is sometimes to freak out when you realize you or your car may be injured by the other driver. Stay cool. Pointing fingers and escalating your voice will be counterproductive to receiving the information needed. Here are a few tips from my friend at Salisbury Collision Centre that you should do after a car accident.
1. Put your car in park. If your car is damaged, that’s all the more reason to not pull over and make the damage even worse than it is. However, other cars who may have not seen the accident must know why a lane is blocked so make sure to turn on the hazards.
2. Pull out your own ID and something to take down the other driver’s information. With the text messaging and hands-free restrictions for cell phone use, it may be a safer bet to get out of the car with paper as opposed to a phone. Otherwise, the at-fault driver may try to change the story around and blame you for phone usage during the accident.
3. Jot down any nearby streets, as well as the closest business or residential address. The police, personal injury lawyers and your insurance company will need this later when a police report is filed. The exact time of the incident should be written down, too.
4. Introduce yourself to the other driver and ask what happened. Some drivers will immediately apologize for the incident and be prepared to give you their insurance information. Uninsured drivers or drivers who don’t feel they are at fault may not. If you’re dealing with the first type of driver, take down his license and insurance information. Make sure to look at the ID to verify that the name is accurate.
5. Write down the license plate number on the other car, as well as the license plate state. Insurance companies and police must be able to look up the driver by this information, and if you get a license plate number without a state they’ll have no way to verify who the driver is.
6. Don’t be alarmed if the at-fault driver takes down your information as well. However, do call the police if there are damages to either car or either person. The police will more than likely ask if either of you are able to drive to the police station. The response to this depends on the damage.
7. Be honest with the other driver, and let him know you are immediately going to the police station (assuming the police don’t have to come to that location). Hopefully the driver will also meet you there so the two of you can hear each other’s interpretation of the incident.
8. If the car or physical damage is not worth waiting for the police to come, take photographs of the damaged area before you leave. This is when a cell phone camera really comes in handy. Don’t give the other driver the opportunity to say those damages were already there, and acknowledge any damages you believe were caused by this accident. If you have personal injury lawyers this conversation will be important for a potential case.
9. Go directly to the police station. Make sure you have proof of auto insurance, valid car registration papers and an updated license. Without those three, the police will not take your report. You could also risk being ticketed for not having all three if the police have to come to you instead of you coming to them.
10. Contact your auto insurance company to give them details of the incident. Most auto insurance companies have online sites where drivers can upload their own photos, a scanned copy of the police report and any other information (including medical documents) on a recently opened claim. If you’re not at fault, the claim will be opened as a no-fault claim.
11. If the other driver provided his auto insurance information, call to open a claim with his company, too. His insurance company will contact the at-fault driver to get his side of the story and call you back. His insurance company will also be able to tell you whether it’s okay to get a vehicle damage estimate at covered repair shops, and if the at-fault driver has bodily injury and property damage coverage. Do not use your own auto insurance unless you have to, especially if you’re not at fault.
12. If the other driver does not have auto insurance, discuss your own bodily injury and property damage coverage rates with your insurance company. Keep track of all medical, rental car, comprehensive deductible payments and car damage estimates should you decide to take these bills to court to sue the other driver for reimbursement.
13. If you have funds set aside for a personal injury lawyer, contact that lawyer as well for major bodily injury only. The legal fees aren’t worth it if the bodily injury is minor enough that your health insurance will solely take care of any injuries.
14. If there is major bodily injury, seek a medical professional immediately and make sure to provide any information they need about the accident. Their medical documents should mirror the same car accident results as the police report. Either auto insurance company and personal injury lawyer will need this information, too.
15. Keep both auto insurance companies in the loop. Once the insurance companies are involved, they’re responsible for coverage contact even if the at-fault driver disputes the charges.