Accidents happen, even to the most cautious drivers. After a car accident, you might be numb with surprise, dizzy with adrenaline, or furious with the person who ran a red light.
So what is the first thing to do after you're in a car accident? Just stay calm, the post-accident process is pretty straightforward, but it's not always simple. Keeping your head up will help you record the accident more accurately and more precisely.
Use the tips below to prep yourself for the stressful aftermath of a car accident and to make the claims process — if there is one— more efficient and effective.
Check For Injuries
Immediately after the car accident, assess whether someone is injured. If so, call 911 to get an ambulance and the police on the spot. Even if the accident is minor and everyone is in a cooperative manner, consider calling the police. That way you're going to have an official report to send to your insurance company.
Move To A Safe Spot
If the cars involved are still in operation, get them on the sidewalk or off the main road. Make sure you pull out of the road completely to avoid being hit by approaching vehicles. If you have flares or reflective emergency triangles, set them to alert other drivers. If there seems to be a danger of fire, get everyone out of the way.
The laws of the state differ with how much details you are expected to give at the scene of the accident. Typically, you only need to give your name and insurance details to any other drivers involved. While you might want to have the specifics of the accident with the other driver, it's best to limit the contact so that you don't admit guilt or accuse the other party.
- The name and insurance of the other driver.
- The other driver's phone number, if they're willing to give it.
- The contact information for Witness.
- Pictures of any damages
- Police number for the report
- The name of the police officer and the telephone number.
- Personal observations on what occurred in the course of the accident.
WreckCheck, a free app that tracks the time of the crash, lets you create written and audio information and transfers it to you or your handler. In addition, many car insurance companies offer free mobile apps to help you record the specifics of the crash.
Don't have the app, but have a handy pen and paper? Draw a diagram of the scene and make a note of how the accident occurred, including the direction in which each vehicle was moving.
Find Out What Insurance Coverage Applies
How the insurance claims system works for you after a car accident depends on who was at fault and what kind of protection you and the other driver has. If the other driver was at fault, this is how the coverage will work.
Yourself and The Passengers Expense
- Your vehicle: the other driver's property damage liability coverage will pay for repairs up to that of the policy limit.
- Your medical bills: these would be covered within the limits of the liability of the other driver for bodily injury, which is required in most states. Your own personal injury coverage will come into play in the 12 no-fault countries.
If the other driver didn't have insurance, or didn't have enough coverage to pay your bills, uninsured or under-insured motorist would pay off. Uninsured motorist coverage is mandated in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and some of those states also allow under-insured motorist coverage.
Optional Coverage Ideas For Either Driver
- Emergency roadside service: this is useful if you need a tow to the repair shop. This service is one of the advantages of AAA membership; however, it is often easier to get emergency roadside service from your car insurer. The downside is that using it will count as a claim and claims will cause your rates to rise.
- Rental car coverage: Car rental insurance pays for the lease while yours is in the store.
Decide Whether You Should File A Claim
If the accident was your fault and the damage seems to be minor, it's tempting to offer cash for the other driver's repairs. But it might be more expensive than you thought. According to Consumer Reports, a number of test crashes at just 10 mph produced damage that looked minor but cost $3,000 to $6,000.
You might still have to use your own insurance right up front, even if the other driver's fault was a collision. Here's how it works.
- File a claim with your insurance company and be prepared to pay the deductible The insurer must negotiate with the other driver's insurance provider and refund the deductible if necessary.
- When you live in a non-fault state, your own PIP insurance will pay you and anyone in the car with you for injuries. (You would still have the right to sue for serious injuries later.)
- The other driver's insurance company must determine if his client was at fault. After that, either you will be asked to make an estimation of the repair or an adjuster will assess the damage.
- The company can cover medical expenses unless you live in a non-default state. In both cases, though, you will only be reimbursed to the standard driver's liability cap
- If that's not enough to pay all the bills, you might turn to your own collision coverage if you have it, or to your own under-insured motorist coverage, which has not been required in every state. Deductibles are likely to apply for both.
Look Around For Lower Car Insurance Rates
Your car insurance rates could rise significantly (50 per cent or more, in some cases) depending on the severity of the accident and your insurance company. While some insurance companies offer accident forgiveness, which means that your accident may not result in higher premiums, other companies may double your accident rate.
In fact, the Consumer Federation of America report indicated that some companies would even raise rates by 10% or more for incidents that were not your fault. Yet other policies just demand a price increase if you're at fault. Even the amount of time the incident has impacted your rates varies by state and company.