Accidents – we’ve all seen too many of them (especially in Atlanta rush hour traffic). However, being in a car accident can be one of the scariest and most stressful situations you can be in. You want to make sure that you, your passengers, and the occupants of the other vehicle are all right while potentially dealing with another irate driver. Throughout all the chaos, it can be easy to panic and lose sight of what to do. So, here are the basic steps you should take after getting into a car accident.
What to do if you’re in a car accident.
1. Don’t leave the scene.
The latter half of your fight-or-flight instincts might be going into overdrive right about now. Whatever you do, fight the urge to flee. The consequences of fleeing the scene of an accident are going to be a lot more severe than just dealing with the car accident outright – especially if there’s any significant damage to the cars, injuries to the passengers of either vehicle, or fatalities.
If entirely possible, simply find a safe place like a parking lot, road shoulder, or turn lane for you and the other driver to pull into so that you don’t block traffic. If blocking traffic can’t be helped (like on the 4 or 5 lane highways that we love so much), try to move your vehicles into a position that blocks the least amount of traffic until the police or a tow truck can help you maneuver safely off the road.
2. Don’t admit fault.
Even if you’re pretty sure you’re the one that caused the whole debacle, don’t admit fault. It can almost be a reflex to try to apologize to the other driver if their car is damaged or if someone was hurt, but again, fight the urge. Try not to say anything that could be construed as you admitting fault for the car accident; your statements could incriminate you before any official fault is assigned by a lawyer, court, or insurance company.
3. Make sure everyone is okay.
Of course, you want to make sure that no one was hurt. Have everyone check themselves for any bumps, bruises, or scrapes from the incident. If someone has been knocked unconscious or has immediate neck or back pain, try not to move them until emergency responders are on the scene to tell you how to proceed.
4. Call the police.
Even if there were only minor injuries and the incident doesn’t exactly seem like an emergency, responders still generally recommend that you call 911. The operator will tell you whether or not the situation calls for emergency attention or if a non-emergency line needs to be called to simply clean up the accident and report anything. Calling 911 is also an almost surefire way to have an officer dispatched to the scene. Either way, you’ll want a police report on record, at the very least, for your insurance company.
Pro Tip: If you see an accident, but you don’t know enough of the details or you’re not one of the parties involved, you can call 311 where they’ll connect you or provide you with the number to your local non-emergency line.
5. Take pictures
This step will be important for filing your insurance claim at the very least and providing evidence for a court case at the very most. If and when it’s safe to do so, take pictures at multiple angles of the accident scene. You’ll want to get photos of your vehicle and the other person’s vehicle if they’ll allow it. Some carriers even recommend that you take video of any damages or injuries at the scene.
However you choose to record the incident, make sure that you keep the information in a safe and easily accessible space. Using a cloud system can be a big help if you’re using your phone to capture everything. You could also find somewhere to print your pictures out and store the physical copies in a secure location.
6. Exchange information
There are a few other pieces of information you’ll want to get from the other driver and vice versa:
- First and last names
- Best contact numbers
- License plate numbers
- The make, model, color, year, and VIN of both vehicles
- The name and phone number of their insurance company
- Auto insurance policy numbers
These are the ONLY forms of information that another driver absolutely needs from you after an accident. You can provide more information but be careful when doing so. Some people will use other forms of your information to steal your identity. So, never allow someone to take a picture of your license or your insurance card. Write everything down for the other driver and be careful about the additional information that you do share.
7. Gather info from witnesses.
If there are any witnesses that stop and are willing to give their information, take down their name and best contact numbers in case you, your insurance company, or your lawyers need additional info or testimonies.
8. Call your insurance company.
Let your car insurance company know what happened as soon as you can. Tell them the entire truth about the incident. Lying or not telling them certain details could affect the payout of your claim, or it could cause them to outright deny your claim. Make sure you have the proper amount of collision coverage to handle the incoming costs of the accident. Find out what additional info they need that can’t be given over the phone and send it over to your agent as soon as possible.
If possible, also write down the name of the agent you spoke with and their contact number. Keep notes on all of your conversations with dates and times as a quick reference for you, but also as a method of reference for your agent, the insurance company as a whole, or your lawyer if they need it.
9. Keep a record of your medical expenses and treatments.
If you’re hurt in the accident or you recognize an injury within 2-3 weeks of your accident, make sure to document any medical treatments, visits, medications, or physical therapy costs that arise because you were hurt. It will give your insurance company a more detailed view of what they need to cover.
Also, keep track of how the injury affects your daily life: Are you still able to drive and maneuver easily with your injury? Did you have to miss work? Were you unable to cook or clean and you had to hire a service or eat take out? This type of info could allow your insurance carrier to reimburse you for some of these costs as well.
10. Get a property damage evaluation.
Have an adjuster assess the damages to your vehicle. If you disagree about how your insurance is reimbursing you or you have any concerns, feel free to get a second opinion from repair shops or a mechanic. (You may have to make sure that your second-opinion repair shops will take your insurance, though.) Be upfront with your adjuster about the concerns you have, and in a worst-case scenario, talk to your lawyer if you think you’re being unfairly charged or not covered properly.
11. Don’t talk about the accident.
Just as you don’t want to admit fault while you’re at the scene of the accident, you should also avoid talking about the accident while handling the case. The only people you absolutely need to talk to about your car accident are the police and your insurance company. If the insurance company of the other driver contacts you for a statement, direct them to the police report, your lawyer, or your insurance company.
12. Be careful about accepting early settlements.
Again, take about 2-3 weeks to see if you have any injuries that weren’t immediately apparent. Also, if your car wasn’t completely totaled, make sure to note any internal damage to your vehicle that you notice in that 2-3 week period. There may be other issues that weren’t visible at the time of the car accident, and they might not be able to be fixed if you take a settlement payment too early.
It may seem like a lot to remember, especially after going through something as traumatic as a car accident. Still, if you take these tips step by step, you’ll definitely find that you’re more equipped to remain stirred but not shaken if you are in a car accident.
However, it’s important to have the right car insurance in the first place to handle life’s little accidents. That’s why our insurance agents are experts at getting to know the exact type of car insurance you need for your specific lifestyle. And we’re masters at getting you the best rates! Call us today or fill out our online form to start getting free, customized quotes from an insurance expert.