How to Deal with a Car Accident

Car accidents happen all the time. In the United States, about 37,000 people die in a car accident every year. About 2.35 million are injured or disabled.

Pay attention to this, especially if you’re a new driver, around 8,000 people of people killed in car crashes are those who are 16-20 years old. Car crashes are expensive, too. They cost about $230.6 billion every year, or about $820 per person.

You do not want to be involved in a car accident. Nobody really wants that. But whether you like it or not, there are people who will speed up and beat the red light, do a rolling stop in an intersection with a Stop sign, and a lot of them who are just plain idiots in the streets.

Although you may be a careful driver, you cannot control other drivers. You may also become distracted, which could cause you to hit other cars.

Before you even get into an accident, make sure that you have an Emergency Kit in your car. There’s an Emergency Roadside Assistant Kit that costs about $60 on Amazon.

So here’s how to deal with a car accident.

Please note that most of these tips assume that you’re safe and not involved in a life-threatening emergency. If you are, you should call 911 and seek immediate assistance.

Keep Calm.

You might freak out if this were your first accident. Take a deep breath. Calm your nerves. One way to gain keep calm is to rehearse in your mind the steps needed to take in case of a car accident.

Check your safety and that of the other party.

Do a spot check. Do you have any injury? Is the person driving the other car okay? If the accident is really bad, check if there’s leaking gasoline that could be the potential cause of a fire.

If it’s just a minor accident, move the cars off to the side of the road so you won’t cause a traffic jam.

If the accident is bad and the cars involved need a tow truck, turn on your hazard lights and step out and go to the side of the road. If your car is in the middle of the road, make sure to check for oncoming vehicles. It’s bad enough that you got into an accident, you don’t want to be run over by other cars.

Take out the warning triangle and place those on the behind and in front of the car to help other drivers slow down and avoid the scene of the accident.

Take photos–lots of photos.

Since smartphones already have great cameras, take photos of the accident from different angles: front, rear, sides, and from above if you can manage it. The photos will show the extent of damage, and will provide important context to the accident. The photos will also help your insurance company adjust the claims. Take photos of skid marks, too, if they are present.

how to deal with a car accident
image credit: Gabriel Saldana via Flickr

Call the Police.

You, or the other driver involved in the accident might be tempted to settle things between you. Don’t. You should still call the police.

Some laws in your state require you to call the police only if someone is injured, if the accident is blocking traffic, or if there is property damage above a certain amount–in most states, that amount is $50. But even if that is the case, you should still call the police hotline and let the dispatcher decide if an officer needs to come to you or not. If the dispatcher decides that they don’t need to send an officer to the scene of the accident, you may be asked to file an accident report at a local police station or online.

Your insurance company and that of the other driver will determine fault in the accident. Both companies will rely on a police report to establish liability. This is better than relying on the statement of either party. If you were the one hit, you would definitely need a police report. You never know if the other party is honest or not. And there had been instances where the party at fault denied the accident when the insurance company calls them.

To be on the safe side, call the police!

Police can protect you from fraud and they can also help everyone involved remain calm and collected.

Get the information of the other driver. Share yours, too.

Get the information of the other driver:

Name
Address
Phone number & Email
Driver’s license number
Insurance company
Policy number

To protect yourself from fraud, don’t give your Social Security Number. You can say no to a police officer and just say that the SSN is not needed for filing insurance claim. Same thing goes for you–you don’t need the other driver’s SSN.

Write down important information related to the event:

Time and place of the accident. Look for highway markers nearby. You can also draw a sketch of how you think the accident went.

Write the description of the other car: make, model, year, color, license plate number, and any damage you notice. Lastly, write down description of the other driver and any passenger who may be riding in the other car.

Get witnesses.

If there are people nearby, or any other motorist willing to serve as a witness, get their names, address, phone number, and email address. This will help determine liability.

If you cannot find witnesses, a dashboard camera will come in handy. More and more drivers have saved money and proven their story related to accidents, thanks to dashcams. Do check out our best dashcam reviews article.

Neither admit nor assign blame.

Robert Fulghum will probably not agree because you should say sorry if you’re at fault. But in the case of car accidents, it’s better to let the police and insurance companies do that. Don’t even say “I’m sorry” because that would be an admission of fault.

If the other driver is alright and you are, too, exchange your information and don’t engage in a lot of discussion. Remember the Miranda warning usually given by the police: “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and may be used against you…” Same thing applies here. Reserve your comments and statements to the police and your insurance company.

 

image credit: Chris Short via Flickr
image credit: Chris Short via Flickr

Call your insurance company.

Right after the accident, call your insurance company and let them know what happened. This will put your side of the story on their file before the other driver calls them.

If the other driver was at fault, you also have the option to call their insurance company (assuming that you got that information from them). But it would be better to let your company file the claim. The two insurance companies will then engage in the process of trying to pay as little money as possible. This process could be time consuming, it’s better to let the two insurance companies fight it out.

When you call your insurance company, give them the information you have collected and tell them the details of the accident. Let the agent be aware that you have a police report and that you took a lot of photos.

An insurance claims adjuster will then visit you to look at the car and provide an estimate of the damage sustained. The other driver’s company may also do the same. The two companies will then negotiate to come to an agreement of the amount you’ll get.

After the insurance companies sort it out, you will be told to take your car to a particular shop for repairs. While it is being repaired, the insurance company will most likely provide you a rental car, and hopefully, soon enough, your car and your life will be back to normal.

 

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