Accidents happen, it’s a simple fact of life. However, it’s important to know what to do when, and that’s a when not an if, you get in an accident. Whether you got sideswiped by someone running a red light or you rear-ended an undercover cop car while on texting, it’s important to stay calm, assess the situation, and remember your rights and responsibilities.
We highly recommend shelling out for a AAA membership. The American Automobile Association has been helping drivers out after accidents for literally a hundred years and will probably continue to do so for another hundred. Plus, they can get you some pretty great discounts.
Make Sure No One is Injured
The very first thing you should after you’ve taken a few deep breaths and found your centre is to make sure everyone involved is alright. While you should try to pull up to the side of the road, it’s important not to leave the scene of the accident. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately. If there’s no service in the area, try to flag down a passing car to get help. If you have to, leave someone to take care of the injured while your or someone else goes off for help.
Even if no one is injured, you should still call the police. Sometimes they won’t dispatch anyone if the damage is under a certain threshold, say less than $1,000. However, depending on your insurance policy you might be obligated to report accidents no matter the extent of the damage. On that note, make sure you familiarize yourself with your insurance policy.
When getting out of your car, especially if you’re on the highway, be very careful and make sure your way is clear and safe. Remember, a car’s a car and your life’s your life, you can replace one but not the other.
When you talk to the other driver, make sure to stay calm, collected, and centered. Even if the other driver is frothing at the mouth because their precious Hyundai Elantra got dented, do not respond in kind. Car accidents are stressful situations and you don’t want things to escalate into something worse. However, unless you actually did rear-end a guy while you were on your cell phone, do not apologize. It admits fault and can get you in a ton of problems with the cops and with your insurance company.
Make sure them and anyone they’re with are okay, exchange your contact and insurance information, and take pictures of the accident scene using your cellphone while you wait for the police to arrive. Even if you’re afraid of your premiums going up, it’s not a good idea to arrange reparations with the other driver without getting the police or the insurance companies involved.
Filing a claim
Call your insurance company as soon as possible to start filing your claim. It’s important to begin the claims process quickly so that the details of the accident are fresh in your mind. While it might take a bit for a claims adjuster to meet with you and assess how much of the damage is covered, the sooner the better considering how quickly memory in a stressful situation gets distorted.
While it might take a few days for the attending police officer to write up their report, make sure you get their contact information as well as their badge number and the report number. If possible, try to give the officer your side of the story first. That way, if the other guy gives a suspiciously different construction of the events, then the officer will be comparing it to yours rather than the other way around.
Contacting your insurance company quickly is also helpful so you can find out if they require you to get your car’s body work done at a specific garage or network. Maybe their relationship with the body shop will get you some kind of deal, but also it provides one less way for them to screw you out of your claim money.
If you want to be really prepared, see if your insurance company has an app that will help you file your claim and get roadside assistance after the accident.