Car accident cases are common but also costly. Our immediate actions or reactions contribute significantly to the outcome of the incident. This guide explains the 13 steps of what to do after a car accident.
1. Do not flee the accident scene
Leaving the scene is the last thing to do when in a vehicle accident. Stay even if it is a minor auto accident. You may face criminal prosecution if you flee.
2. Show concern for the others
If you are not hurt and can move, check out the passengers in your car and the other vehicle(s). However, do not argue with anyone. The police will best appreciate your story. So keep it until they arrive.
3. Call the police
It is obvious to call the police in the event of a tragic accident. It is still a good idea even when it is a minor accident. The police report will come in handy when you need to file an insurance claim for property damages. It is necessary that all vehicles remain where they are unless they are blocking the traffic.
4. Exchange details with the other driver(s)
It is important to get the details of the driver and passengers in the other car. You can do this as you wait for the police to arrive at the scene. The most important details are:
- Name and contact information of all who are part of the vehicle accident
- Insurance information such as insurance card or policy number
- Location of the accident
- Driver’s license and
- Vehicle plate numbers.
When the police arrive at the scene, the investigation officer will also provide a police report number. Keep it safe as you’ll need it when you notify your insurance company.
5. Speak with eyewitnesses.
In case there are witnesses at the scene you should talk to them. Find out what they saw and ask if they are willing to speak to your attorney. If they agree, request for their contacts and keep it safe.
6. Captures pictures, videos and audio records
Photos provide detailed documentation of the scene. Find a camera or use your phone’s camera to take as many pictures as you can. However, do not interfere with the police documentation process. You can do it before they arrive or after they have left. The more the pictures, the higher the likelihood of capturing a detail the police may have missed or overlooked.
Some of the details to capture include:
- The other drivers and passengers
- The car’s license plates
- Insurance cover numbers
- The damages on the vehicle if any.
- The part of the road: Will be necessary in case you need to prove that you were driving on the correct side when the accident occurred.
- Bodily injuries, if any, of yourself, the other driver and passengers
- The crowd of eyewitnesses
Besides taking pictures, you can record audios or videos of the conversations. The chances are that not all will accept this act kindly. So store them in the cloud or share on social media using your mobile app as soon as you capture them. You can later retrieve and put them together.
7. Report to your insurance company
Get in touch with your insurance companies as soon as you can and file an insurance claim. Most insurance cover policies require that you report accidents immediately. Provide all the necessary details of the crash. Ask for them for a way forward and cooperate.
It is essential that you note down all the relevant information related to the claims process. They include the claim’s number, the insurance agent handling the accident claim, phone numbers of all parties, rental car receipts, and evidence of payments for other expenses resulting from the accident.
8. Document medical expense
Get medical attention even though there are no visible injuries and you feel no pain. The impact of the crash may have caused an internal injury on the head, chest or spinal cord. Let the doctors examine your condition.
In case you incur personal injury medical expenses, keep the records of all the bills. If your auto insurance cover included medical benefits, then the insurer will take care of the bills. Otherwise, you may check out the insurance information on your life insurance coverage. Besides, you will still need them as evidence in a court of law when it becomes necessary to press charges.
In case you live in a no-fault state, then you will not need to make any insurance claims for coverage of your medical expenses. Insurance companies are charged to take care of the medical expenses regardless of who is at fault. If you get involved in an accident do not engage in the insurance claims process, all you need is to contact the driver’s insurance company, and report the accident.
9. Get a property damage valuation
Evaluate the vehicles damage or property. If it is your car, get a mechanic to evaluate the extent of the damage. The same applies when things are the other way round. Ensure you document all the details of the property damage you have caused. Let the other party agree with your evaluation, if possible by signing. It sounds self-incriminating, but it can save you a lot of money when dealing with malicious people.
10. Tread softly
During accidents, even the most experienced drivers become susceptible and can easily accept unreasonable terms. There are insurance scammers on the roads and you never who is not one of them. Avoid the following as they may entrap you:
- Voluntarily accepting that the accident is your fault
- Signing any statements without the guidance of your attorney.
- Promising at the scene of the accident to pay for the damages or injuries.
- Admitting that you are not injured. Check #8 above.
11. Watch out for tow truck scammers
Tow truck drivers receive referral fees for towing a car to a specific repair shop. You are charged higher than average to cover this cost. The situation worsens if your insurer does not deal with the store and your car needs a transfer. These scammers will charge you prohibitive amounts as towing and storage fees. If you fail to pay, the Repair and Storage Liens Act allows them to sell your car to recover the costs.
In case you need towing services, here are five tips on how to avoid these frauds.
- Municipal license: Some municipalities require tow trucks to have a municipal license number displayed on its side. If you are in such a region, check for the license number.
- Check any reputable association or Roadside Assistance Group affiliated with the tow truck.
- Ensure you take your vehicle to a place recommended by state laws. Some states and municipalities require that a towed vehicle be taken to the police station first.
- Choose where you want the car towed to, preferably as advised by your insurer.
- Stay informed. Read the Consumer Protection Act and municipality regulations on tow trucks.
12. Be wary of early settlement offers
There are times when the other party may propose an early settlement offer. They may ask that you settle the resulting costs without involving the police or insurance companies. In spite of how convenient it sounds, this is not always the right way. You may not know the full extent of the damage at the time. Consequently, you may risk losing your insurance coverage. Therefore, do not exchange information with the other party.
Most of the time when the other party is an uninsured motorist they will lure you to exchange information so that you can settle the issue. This will not be a wise move. You should seek roadside assistance without indulging in any form of negotiation with the uninsured motorist.
13. Consider hiring an attorney
Most people overlook attorneys when handling car accident related issues until things get out of hand. Avoid this by contacting an attorney early. In fact, when you are involved in the accident, you should not sign any statement with the insurance company or any other party without the guidance of your attorney. Learn to protect your rights.
An accident occurs all the time and is inevitable and the actions you take are crucial. Remember, when you are involved in the accident, you need to remain calm considerate but cautious. Let your insurance company and attorney handle the situation.