With the complete disruption that comes with an automobile accident, it can be hard to focus and take care of things that need your attention at the moment. However, knowing what to do can help reduce injuries, save lives, and ultimately simplify the claims process. This article outlines the important steps you should take if you are involved in an accident.
If safe to do so, move your vehicle out of harm’s way to prevent further damage, injuries, or chain-reaction accidents.
If your vehicle cannot be moved, turn on the hazard lights and close all of the doors. Do not leave the scene of the accident.
Check for injuries and call 911.
Even if there are no injuries, it is important to call 911 and have police come to file an accident report. This is necessary in case the other driver sues for damages or medical injuries. There also may be more damage to the vehicle than originally thought. Ask the responding officer how to obtain a copy of the incident report, if he or she doesn’t provide one at the scene. Also, get the officer’s name and badge number.
Arguing, venting, or losing your temper will not help the situation.
Be courteous to others at the scene.
You’ll get more goodwill from others if you treat them with respect. And remember—every person is a potential witness.
Be consistent in your version of the accident.
Sometimes it’s tempting to embellish or dramatize the details. Simpler is better.
Gather information about what happened.
Note the road and weather conditions as well as the location and time of day. Provide as much detail as time and circumstances will allow. Do not wait to perform this step. Memories fade quickly and your immediate recollection of events could prove to be critical in handling your claim.
Obtain names and phone numbers of witnesses.
Photograph the accident scene if it is safe to do so. Capture images from multiple angles, from a distance, and up close.
Exchange information with the other driver including name, phone number, insurance company and policy number, and vehicle license plate number.
In addition, be prepared to provide the same information for the police report as well as
- Description of the accident
- Location and time of the accident
- Damage and injuries
- Any witness information
Do not discuss the specifics of the accident with anyone other than the police and your insurance representative. Remain objective. Do not admit fault or accept blame. Don’t discuss the extent of auto insurance coverage you have with the other driver.
Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible.
The longer you wait, the harder it is to remember details.
Keep a file with notes and copies of any claim forms.
Keep track of the name, title, and contact information of everyone you speak with during the claims process. Complete any forms you receive immediately and accurately.
Maintaining the Right Insurance Coverage for Your Automobile
It is essential that you maintain the right insurance coverage for your vehicle and your situation in the event you are in an accident. Here are a few tips for ensuring you are protected:
Purchase more coverage than the state-required limits.
The minimum coverage required by your state may not be enough to fully cover damages and injuries if you are in an accident. For example, if your auto insurance property damage coverage is $15,000 and you cause $25,000 worth of damage, you’ll have to pay the remaining $10,000 out of your own wallet.
Look beyond the price of the policy and know what is included in the total package.
Consider coverage, convenience, and customer service. Decide what’s most important to you, and communicate this with your auto insurance agent so he or she can help you choose the company that is right for you.
Consider bolstering your coverage with a personal liability insurance policy, also known as an umbrella policy.
This type of policy extends the liability coverage you have on other existing personal insurance policies, including automobile and homeowners. An umbrella policy provides protection for claims in which you are held liable and takes effect after the limits on your underlying policies have been exhausted. For example, if your automobile liability limit is $100,000 and you cause an accident with $200,000 in injuries, your automobile policy would pay $100,000 toward the claim and the umbrella policy would pay the remaining $100,000 to settle the claim.