An unexpected automobile accident can leave you feeling a bit confused and unsure of what to do. That is why it is important to brush up on post-accident procedures before you need them. If you are involved in an automobile accident, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself and your interests. Following these steps can help make the moments after an accident less stressful—and the claims process much smoother.
- EVALUATE THE ACCIDENT. First and foremost, you should assess your safety and that of any other passengers involved in the accident. If you are able to move your car out of driving lanes, do so as soon as possible to get to safety.
- CALL THE POLICE. Even if it is only a minor accident, and there are no serious injuries, it is still a good idea to call 911. A police report is important because it will help with your insurance claim. When the police arrive, make sure you tell the investigating officer(s) exactly what happened, to the best of your ability. If you are asked if you are injured and you are not sure, say you are not sure, rather than “no.” You should make sure statements made by other persons involved in the accident are accurate as well. The police may not have to show up to the accident scene just because you call them. Most states have a dollar threshold below which the police need not show, if there is no bodily injury involved.
- EXCHANGE INFORMATION. If comfortable doing so, exchange information with any other drivers involved in the accident. Piece together as much information as you can at the scene of the accident. If you are unsure about your safety and it is safe to do so, stay in your vehicle until the police arrive. Alternatively, you can alert the other driver(s) from the safety of your car that you are headed to the nearest police station and you will meet them there. Some accidents are not, in fact, accidents, but rather are an attempt to disable vulnerable victims or are attempts to change one stolen car for another. Victims should ask themselves if it is safe to stop and exit their cars or if they should attempt to drive to a populated area before exchanging communication with the other driver. It is not illegal to leave the scene of an accident if you believe your life is endangered owing to the particulars of the accident; it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident if you are trying to secret the fact that the accident took place, or if someone was clearly hurt by your actions.
- DOCUMENT THE ACCIDENT. If you are able, take photos of any vehicle damage and/or visible injuries, document the names of all individuals involved in the accident, including getting the names and contact information of witnesses in case they are needed to provide testimony, and identify the location of the accident. If you cannot take photos at the scene of the accident, take them as soon as possible after the accident, or make a drawing of the accident scene, i.e. where is/was the stop sign, traffic light, the dog that jumped in front of you, etc.
- REPORT THE ACCIDENT. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible to open your claim. Your agent can tell you exactly what to expect from the claims process. You can also file a claim online on your own time once things have calmed down a bit.
Knowing and following these important tips can ease your mind, and simplify the claims process. It is also a good idea to print this article out and keep a copy in your glove compartment. You never know when it may be needed. Contact us today to learn more.