7 Tips on What to Do After a Car Accident
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015, there were 6,296,000 police-reported motor vehicle crashes. Just think about how many auto accidents went unreported! Whether it is a minor car accident or if it is a major collision with both cars totaled, you need to take some action. If it is your fault, you might be struck with panic and think that running away from the situation is the best thing to do. Don’t do it. You need to stay at the scene of the car accident and make a couple of urgent phone calls. We’ve created a checklist of all the things you need to do and in the order in which they should ideally happen.
If you have an auto accident and your insurance company does not act in good faith, you’ll want to get paired up with a better agent. SmartFinancial can pair you up with a trusted and licensed professional if you visit here and enter your zipcode.
Whatever happens: don’t panic. These things work out somehow.
Just take these important 7 steps:
- Stay Put.
Unless your car is obstructing traffic, leave the cars as they were when you experienced impact. If you are in the middle of a busy street with traffic, pull over to a safe area if you’re not already in one and turn on your hazard lights.
- Call an Ambulance.
If anyone requires medical attention, tend to that first, by calling for an ambulance. Even a mild bump on the head may turn out to be more serious so make sure to get help even for what seems minor.
- Call 911.
Don’t assume that a parking lot accident is always a no-fault situation. Don’t think it won’t haunt you either. Also, don’t assume that because it’s your fault that it will only hurt you if the authorities show up at the scene of the collision. You may actually be protected against other damages than the one you caused if the police take down all the facts. People do file auto insurance claims even without the police showing up and they may twist facts without the authorities present so don’t even hesitate. Even if you get a ticket for a traffic violation, it’s worth it to get the real account of what happened on file immediately. It’s also good to have the police witness the condition the other driver is in after the impact so you don’t suddenly have someone in a body cast file a car insurance claim when you know that the other driver wasn’t impacted to that degree. If you didn’t file a report at the scene of the auto accident, you are still able to file one up to 72 hours afterwards, depending on the state in which you live. The laws surrounding car accidents are very different from state to state. For example, in some states you have to report an accident or else you’re penalized. Always learn the laws of your state well before you find yourself in an accident.
- Get Some Info.
Stay at the scene of the car accident and exchange information with the other driver and any witnesses immediately after calling the police. You’ll need this information in case the other person leaves before the police arrive. You’ll also want to get the other person’s car insurance information whether you call the police or not. You’ll need this info for the insurance companies to decide who pays for the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle(s).
- Stay Quiet.
Unless it’s unsafe to do so, you may want to stay in your car. Try to engage the other driver as little as possible. Don’t apologize or say anything about the auto accident being your fault even if you feel that it was. Don’t ask the other person if they are okay. Also, don’t answer if they ask the same of you (“I’m not sure. I’m in shock,” is a perfectly honest and safe answer). If in a few days it turns out that you were impacted more severely than you initially assumed and need medical attention, they may turn what you said against you, especially if they are at fault. Your auto insurance company is in charge of representing you, so remember that and try to avoid conversations about fault, even after the police arrive.
- Take Pictures.
Always take photos of the scene, from several angles. Make sure to take photos of the street view and any signs. Get close ups of the damages to your car and the other car. Take photos of the license plates too.
- Contact Your Insurance Company.
By now you should have the following information to give to your agent:
- Time of the car accident
- Location of the accident (street and nearest cross street)
- The direction you and the other driver were traveling in
- What happened to cause the collision
- Notable driving conditions, including weather and visibility
- Names, contact info for the other driver and witness(es)
- Auto Insurance information for the other driver
- Name and badge number of the officer on the scene of the accident
You may be able to file the auto insurance claim over the phone with your agent but you may also be able to do it online if your insurer has an app for auto accidents. Ask questions when you call.
At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do in the event of a car accident is to get the other driver’s information. Be prepared for the worst too because you may have an uninsured or underinsured motorist on your hands. This means that if they were not protected by an insurance carrier and the auto accident was their fault, you may have to sue the other driver. Hopefully, in this instance you will have uninsured motorist insurance, which would cover the accident.
Should I Get an Attorney After a Car Accident?
You are technically represented by your auto insurance carrier, especially if the car accident was not your fault. But it never hurts to hire an attorney after a car accident if it seems like the only way to avoid liability. In most states you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you do not have uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, you may need an attorney to get compensated for the damages to your car if it was the other driver’s fault.
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