Being involved in a car accident – even a minor one – can be very upsetting and traumatizing. Because people are upset, they often forget to obtain critical information that is needed to process the claim for property damage and personal injury, if applicable. If the accident is more serious, or involves personal injuries, often the police will arrive to assist the drivers and get the medical attention that is needed.
Regardless of whether or not police respond to the scene, it is still important to remember these steps to ensure that all important information is obtained and evidence gathered before vehicles are taken away and witnesses leave the scene. Of course, there are times where the operators and occupants of the vehicle are unable to gather any information due to the severity of their injuries. In those cases, we rely heavily on the information gathered by the police to reconstruct the accident and determine fault. However, even with the best of intentions, police officers can make mistakes. So, whenever it is possible and safe to do so, the following are things to remember:
- Keep an emergency kit in your glove box. This kit should include key contact phone numbers for the police, emergency personnel, and insurance contacts. Additionally, it should include paper and a pen to record information from the other involved people. If your cell phone does not have a camera, include a disposable camera to photograph the accident scene, damage to vehicle, and visible physical injuries. It is also useful to keep a flashlight, cones, and flares in your trunk to keep safe following a crash.
- Keep safety first. Drivers should move the vehicles to the side of the road whenever practical. If cars cannot be moved, all occupants should stay inside the cars with their seatbelts fastened. Additionally, the use of hazard lights, cones and flares can be useful.
- Exchange information. All information should be exchanged with each driver – name, address, phone number, make, model of car, driver’s license number, license plate number, insurance information, name of owner of car– and any other information that you believe is pertinent.
- Photograph and document the accident scene. If safe to do so, take photographs of the accident scene, the damage – or absence of – to the vehicles, physical injuries. Also, drawing a map and marking points of reference can be helpful.
- Report the accident to your insurance company. As soon as possible, report the accident to your insurance company. They will ask you about the accident, the parties involved, other insurance information, whether anyone was injured, and damage to the vehicles.
- File an Accident Report. A report is required if an accident resulted in any personal injuries or more than $1,000 in property damage. Even if your accident does not meet this threshold, it is still good practice to file an accident report to document what happened. Memories will fade over time and having a report to look back on can help you if needed at a later date.
- Reject any offers to pay the repair bill and avoid an insurance claim. While initially the request to pay the costs of the repairs may be genuine, you do not want to risk that when the person, he or she will balk at paying the bill after learning the cost. Also, more damage can be found after beginning the repairs. If an insurance claim, the insurer would send an adjuster out to the body shop to prepare a supplement estimate of repairs. A person paying out of their own pocket may not be so willing to do so.
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