Being involved in a car accident can be a scary and challenging experience. After overcoming the initial emotional and physical damage or trauma, you may still be worried financially. Because of the legal and financial repercussions, some drivers may be confused about what to do after a car accident.
Because of the risks associated with an auto accident, it is extremely important to know what strategic steps to take to ensure that the situation, claim, and finances are handled properly and with the best possible outcome for you. Below, you will learn what to do if you get in a minor or major car accident, how to handle police officers, your auto insurance company and claim’s adjuster, and what to do and when to protect your rights.
Stop and Stay At The Scene
Never drive away or leave the scene of an accident, even a minor one. Doing so can become a case of a hit-and-run and you can face serious criminal charges.
Don’t Take The Blame From The Start
Even if you rear-end a parked car, don’t accept blame and offer to pay for anything. Let the police do their job, investigate the accident, and come to their own conclusion. If you are at fault, they will let you know; otherwise, don’t volunteer yourself and bias their decision.
A car accident is an unnerving experience that can cause a person to act irrationally, and say or do things that might hurt their claim later. Remember that accidents happen. Even if the accident was your fault, breaking down, crying, complaining, and/or yelling will not help the situation.
Unless your car has burst into flames, which almost never happens, take a moment and compose yourself before you approach the other party. Anything you say or do afterwards can have legal consequences when you are filing your claim, dealing with your auto insurance company, or in more extreme cases, litigation.
Aid Injured Individuals and Call For Medical Attention
If the accident is serious enough to cause injuries, help the injured parties get medical attention. If you are the injured party, try to assess the injury before moving, as this may cause further injury. If someone else is hurt, calm them down, call an ambulance (if needed), and make sure to keep them immobile until the paramedics arrive.
This could help minimize medical costs associated with the accident, and prevent someone else from finding you liable for additional injuries sustained after the accident. Remember that doing too much can make you susceptible to litigation in the future as well.
Get Out of The Way of Oncoming Traffic
If there were no serious injuries and the vehicles involved are still operable, move them off the road when reasonable to do so. Getting off the road will allow other drivers to get where they need to be, and provide more space for the police and injured parties to be taken care of.
Call The Police
Even if the accident was minor, or you were the at-fault party, call the police and make sure a police report is filed. This helps create a third-party record of events, which can facilitate your claims process later. In the unfortunate situation that the case must go to court or the other party decides to misrepresent or dispute the facts, a police report of the accident can serve as a credible account.
Before the police leave, get the following information from the police officer on the scene:
- Badge or ID Number
- Police Report Number
- Phone Number
If you are at-fault, do not admit guilt or claim that you are responsible. Simply offer the facts and let the officer make a judgement call. Again, this is a situation where the things you say or do can be used against you in a court of law.
Take Information and Photos For Evidence
Get the names, addresses, telephone numbers, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers and basic car insurance information from all drivers and passengers involved. Take notes about the accident, and if you’re not at-fault, try to get witness accounts or testimony of what happened. Again, do not intentionally or unintentionally admit guilt, even if a driver, passenger or witness becomes confrontational.
In addition, take pictures of the damage or lack thereof to the vehicles and any property involved. If you or any of the other drivers and passengers are injured, try to take pictures of their injuries as well. Everyone has a camera on their smartphone these days, so take dozens of pictures from every angle so your claims can not be disputed or denied.
However, do not interfere with the on-going police investigation.
Call Your Insurance Company To Report The Incident
You must notify your insurance company as soon as possible, especially since many car insurance policies require policyholders to immediately report any accidents. Your insurance adjuster may even be able to assess the damage at the scene of the accident to avoid having other parties exaggerate claims later on.
Otherwise, be sure to cooperate with your carrier and be as forthcoming and truthful as possible regarding the facts of the incident and the extent of your injuries. Explain everything clearly to avoid denial of coverage.
Create and Keep A File
When dealing with a car accident and the aftermath of paperwork and documentation, it is critical you stay organized. When creating a file, you should keep track of your claim number, claim’s adjuster, names and phone numbers of all contacts, receipts for expenses, medical bills and doctor’s visits, cost of repairs done at body shops, and important conversations with anyone involved in the process.
Do Not Offer Cash
Do not avoid getting your insurance company or law enforcement involved by offering the other driver and/or passengers cash to settle any damages. Sometimes we get fearful of our car insurance rates increasing, and we try to avoid the insurance company’s involvement.
This is one of the worst mistakes you can make, because there will be no proof of a cash transaction and the other driver may still decide to come after you for damages. If you are a safe, responsible driver with a clean driving history, your car insurance company will not let a small claim affect your premiums.
Compare Car Insurance Quotes
A few months after a car accident, one step most drivers forget to take is to re-evaluate their car insurance coverage and company. If your carrier didn’t handle your case to your satisfaction, you should be shopping around to compare policies, companies and online quotes. Find out if you currently have the best and cheapest car insurance available, but focus on the best companies with high customer satisfaction ratings.