You Were In An Accident – What Now?
Car accidents are, in a word, traumatizing. While the best preventative measures like driving safely and defensively can help reduce your risk for an accident, accidents still happen. While no one likes to imagine themselves under these circumstances, but it’s important to plan ahead so that, if you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you’ll be prepared for what comes next. Check out these tips, or print out this FindLaw pamphlet to keep in your car so you’ll be prepared for whatever the road throws at you.
- Be prepared. Make sure that, in the event of an accident, you have your insurance information somewhere easily accessible. It’s a good idea to keep them somewhere other than the glove compartment as that can easily become damaged in an accident. It’s also a good idea to keep a pen and paper handy, as well as a camera (a cellphone camera works just fine.)
- Do not leave the scene. Until all necessary information is gathered and everything is settled, do not leave the scene. If you do, especially in instances of injury or death, you can end up facing major criminal charges as a hit-and-run driver.
- Make sure everyone is okay. Before you call your insurance company or the police, the first thing to do following an accident is make sure that everyone is okay. If someone has sustained injuries, call them an ambulance and don’t move them unless a hazard requires it.
- Call the police. Experts advise that you should call the police in any accident. Even if the other person says that they can fix the damage to your car and to now get law enforcement involved, it’s still a good idea to call the police so if there is injury or damage they can handle it, and if there isn’t they can at least provide an official record of the accident.
- Exchange information. Obtain the names, addresses, numbers, driver’s’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information from all drivers involved in the accident, as well as the names, numbers, and addresses for any passengers who may be involved. Talk to witnesses and get their information as well as their version of what happened.
- Don’t admit fault. Admitting fault is usually an emotional response that can put you in a place of legal liability for the accident. While it may seem as though you were at fault, you may find out you weren’t, but because you’ve admitted liability you may be held accountable for the cost of the accident. Let the police do their investigation and determine who is at fault.
- Call your insurance company. Inform your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible, ideally within a day. Cooperate with them fully, explaining what happened clearly and truthfully. If you lie about anything and they find out, you can be charged with committing insurance fraud and denied coverage for this and future accidents. That being said, if you aren’t protected from rate hikes – i.e. if your rate will go up for an accident that isn’t your fault – then you may decide it’s not worth getting your insurance company involved for a minor fender bender.
- Take pictures. Taking photographs at the scene of the accident can provide a wealth of information when it comes to handling your claim, especially in areas like parking lots where it may be difficult to see exactly what happened. Be sure to also take photos of your vehicle soon after the crash to best determine the extent of damage your vehicle sustained.
If you ever find yourself in a car accident, the best thing to do is stay calm and complete the necessary actions immediately following the accident. The best way to avoid further liability or legal recourse is to be as honest as possible and cooperate with all authority figures who come to help. Accidents may be unavoidable, but by being prepared, you can save yourself a lot of stress in the long run.