Even though talking about the mere possibility is unpleasant, much like considering drafting a will, knowing what to do after a car accident can literally save your life.
We realize you might not particularly enjoy reading this post – it wasn’t that fun to write either. But the unpleasant is often a part of life, and feeling a bit more prepared for it should a car accident befall you would make the experience less traumatizing.
That said, here are the five steps to take after a car accident.
1. Ensure Everyone’s Safety
First and foremost, consider the safety of yourself and your fellow passengers, as well as that of the people in the other car(s). Don’t be a hero and try to get out of the vehicle if you feel something may be broken or if you feel faint. Also don’t try to move those who can’t move, as you could be causing further damage.
Call the police and request an ambulance if necessary, and move away from the vehicle to a safe spot. Even if the accident was a minor one, you still need to report it, and it’s better to be checked out by medical professionals too.
2. Exchange Information With The Driver
Once you’ve made sure everyone is okay, or if it was a fender-bender and not much more, you can talk to the other driver and exchange information.
What’s especially important here is not to point an accusatory finger or to admit your own fault. Allow the police to assess the situation, and leave the damages to the insurance agencies.
The Information You Need To Collect Is As Follows:
- Name of the driver.
- Their phone number.
- Their driver’s license number.
- Tag number.
- Make, model, and color their car.
- Their insurance company and policy number.
3. Collect Other Information
While you are at the scene, there is other information you can collect that may later help your insurance company, or the court, determine fault and assign damages.
Take photos of both vehicles and the damage caused, whether or not you and the other driver agree on the level of it. Take a photo of their license plates, and yours too. You can also snap some photos of the surroundings, the weather conditions, and any other relevant circumstances.
Ask any witnesses for their phone numbers. However, don’t be pushy here, as some people will simply not want to share their personal information with you. They will be interviewed by the police, though.
Ask how you can get a copy of the police report, and write down the name and badge number of the officers on the scene.
4. Talk To Your Insurance Company And A Lawyer
Once you have all the required information, you will want to talk to your insurance agent about the next steps. Discuss what your coverage entails and what the other driver’s insurance covers. You’ll need to determine how the costs of repairs will be handled, based on fault and coverage.
Don’t talk to the other driver’s insurance company, especially not on the phone, and not at the scene. Let your own insurance agent cover that, or find a good car accident lawyer if you feel you need added legal advice about your statements.
Make sure you understand your rights and your obligations very clearly. Insurance lingo is a bit confusing at times, so ask someone to interpret the bottom line for you. They can help you ensure you’re clear about the next steps.
5. Repair Any Damages
Depending on the level of damage to your car and the other car, you may need to do some repairs. Your insurance company may ask you to get these done at a specific repair shop, but you do have the option of asking for an independent and non-binding opinion on their extent and the cost of repairing them.
If you are the one at fault, you will likely also need to cover the repairs of the other car, so make sure you understand how this process works. Determine what you need to be doing yourself and what the insurance company will handle on your behalf.
Knowing these are the five steps you need to take after a car accident may help you stay a bit calmer and understand your rights. Remember them, although we sincerely hope you will never need them.