Accidents happen, even to the most careful drivers. Imagine for a moment that you have a crash tomorrow – would you know what to do, what steps to take and in what order? First, it is important to remain calm.
What happens after an accident is not very complicated, but there are certain steps to take so that you can accurately document the event and make sure your car insurance works.
When it comes to auto insurance, make sure you select one that you trust and that will support you with your accident-related needs.
We have worked with many auto insurers and can highly recommend AAA, as they not only offer top-notch customer service, but they are also leaders in the emergency roadside services category.
If you unfortunately find yourself in a car accident, we recommend that you consider the steps outlined below to prepare for the consequences and make the claims process easy and efficient.
Step 1: Check for injuries.
The first thing to do when an accident happens is to determine if anyone is injured. If there are injuries, you should immediately call 911 so that an ambulance can get to the scene quickly.
However, consider that even if you don’t see an obvious injury, there may be some, so be very careful. In cases like these, the saying “Better safe than sorry” applies.
Step 2: Move to a safe place and do not leave the scene.
Next, you should move both vehicles out of high-traffic areas. Park the car, turn it off and turn on your hazard lights. If you have them, you should also use cones, warning triangles or flares for safety.
Another consideration is that you absolutely do NOT want to leave the scene. Of course, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to go to the hospital by ambulance, this can wait.
You will need to gather details, find witnesses (if possible) and talk to the police, among other things.
Step 3.1: Don’t accept or assign blame
This is very important to remember, as it can save you headaches and complications in the future; don’t accept blame and don’t blame the other driver. That will all be sorted out later with the insurance companies.
Step 3.2: Exchange information and document the accident
Once both drivers are safe and out of danger, it’s time to take stock of what happened and record everything.
Start by taking photos of the scene, including the space around the accident site (if accessible), the damage to your vehicle, the other driver’s number plates and any damage done to his or her vehicle, the direction in which each vehicle was travelling, and the road signs.
Most important of all, you should also ask to see the other driver’s license and take a photo of it.
Also ask for their insurance information and car registration information (if they have it available). You should have your own information ready to share with them as well.
You will need all of these important details when you talk to your auto insurer and file a claim, so try to gather as much detailed information as possible.
Additional details you may want to track include:
- Exact location of the accident;
- Witnesses (get their names and contact information);
- The speed at which you were driving;
- Weather conditions;
- Police arrival time, as well as their name and badge number;
- Street conditions.
Step 4: Call the police and file a police report
Don’t forget to call the police, as the police report will be an important factor that adjusters will use when evaluating your claim.
If tensions escalate after the accident, the police report can serve as an unbiased source of information for both parties, as an arbitrator helps to create some peace of mind.
Step 5: Get roadside assistance with AAA auto insurance
If you purchase AAA auto insurance, you will have immediate access to emergency roadside assistance. For example, if you have a flat tyre or need a tow truck, AAA offers reliable and professional services to transport you to a nearby mechanic.
If you are using another insurer, you may have roadside assistance or you may need to find a service available in your area.
Make sure you have a good understanding of the prices of these services and where they will take you.
Unfortunately there are roadside assistance services that take advantage of these extremely stressful situations such as car accidents.
Step 6: Decide whether to file a claim
The claims process depends on several factors, including who was at fault and what type of insurance you and the other driver have. Consider the following.
Which insurer should cover the claim depends on who or what caused the damage.
If the other driver is at fault, you can file a bodily injury or property damage liability claim with that person’s auto insurance.
If you are at fault, you can file a collision, personal injury protection or MedPay claim with your own auto insurer.
Always be sure to follow up with the insurance adjuster so they hear your side of the story before determining fault or offering a settlement amount.
Remember that auto insurance claims often increase premiums, so expect a change in your monthly payments.
Now, if you are going to call your insurance company to make a claim, be sure to read all the coverages and exclusions in your plan before you do so.
When you speak with a representative, make a note of the main points you discussed so that you have them to refer back to later.
This may seem obvious, but we recommend always being honest and cordial with adjusters. Even if it turns out that the details of the accident point to you being responsible, it’s best to opt for honesty and share as many details as possible.
What if the other driver in the car accident does not have insurance?
If the other driver does not have auto insurance or does not have enough coverage to pay your bills, you must rely on your uninsured/underinsured coverage.
If you do not already have such coverage with your insurance, we recommend adding it.
Nevertheless, uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory in 21 states and the District of Columbia, several of which also require uninsured motorist coverage, so you already have it set up.
If you do not have uninsured or underinsured coverage, you also have the option of filing charges against the driver and taking them to small claims court.
However, be aware that it may cost you more time and money to take them to court than it is worth. Again, that’s why we recommend uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. It’s a safety net for cases like these.
That said, remember that your best strategy is preparation. Make sure you have reliable car insurance and know what to do in the event of an accident. Also check out these 8 ways to save more on car insurance for more information.