A car accident can harm you physically as well as financially. In particular, an accident can result in expensive repair bills and higher auto insurance rates.
To keep this pain to a minimum, the steps you should take after a car accident include:
Stay at the scene
The first thing to do after a car accident is to stay put. Don’t leave the scene.
This step is especially important if you caused the crash. You could face criminal charges, such as for a hit-and-run, if you leave the scene of an accident and are found to be at fault for it.
Move to a safer location
If the scene of the accident seems unsafe, move to a safer place to wait for police or an ambulance to arrive. For example, if the accident happened on a highway, move to the shoulder. Move to the nearest sidewalk if the crash occurred in an intersection.
Don’t forget to turn on your hazard lights before you leave your vehicle so other drivers can see it.
Just don’t stray too far from the accident site. Otherwise, police or other first responders may not be able to find you easily.
Ignore all of the above if you or someone else in your car is severely injured. Instead, wait for emergency services to arrive.
Whether or not you call 911 after an accident depends on the severity of the crash. If it’s just a fender bender, you may decide against it. If it results in serious damage or injuries, though, calling 911 is a good idea.
If you call 911 after a car accident, write down the names and badge numbers of the responding police officers. Make note of the police report number, too, if possible. If you or the other party decides to sue, this information can be useful. Also, most insurance companies require a police report in order to process a claim.
If you receive medical help from emergency services, keep copies of all related medical bills and documents. They will help you get reimbursed if your car insurance policy includes medical payments coverage.
Take photographs of your car and the rest of the scene as soon as possible after the accident. This assumes it’s safe to do so, of course. If it’s not, wait until it is safe.
Why should you take photos after a car accident? Photos can be helpful if you need to file a police report or insurance claim.
Find and talk to witnesses
Scan the scene to see if anyone nearby witnessed the crash. If you find any witnesses, write down their names and phone numbers. An eyewitness account can be useful if there is a dispute over who is at fault for the accident.
On a related note, don’t tell anyone at the scene that you are at fault for the accident, even if you believe that to be true. Another party could use this information against you to sue you.
Get information from other drivers
Assuming everyone involved in the car accident remains at the scene, make sure you get these key pieces of information from all of them — even passengers:
- Full name
- Home address
- Phone number
Also, get this information from any other drivers or car owners involved in the accident:
- Vehicle make, model and year
- License plate number
- Driver’s license number
- Insurance carrier and policy number
Have your car towed
You’ll need to have your car towed from the scene of the accident if you can’t drive it afterward. Before you call anyone, see if your insurance provider works with specific towing companies. If it does, you could receive a discount for hiring one of them rather than someone else.
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File an insurance claim
If your car is damaged in an accident, file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible after you’ve done all of the above and returned home. The faster you file a claim, the faster you can have the damage repaired and get back on the road again.
Most insurance companies let you file a claim in person, over the phone, online or through a mobile app. Whichever method you choose, write down your claim number so you can track the claim’s progress.
An insurance adjuster should contact you within a few days of you filing a claim. The adjuster will examine the damage to your vehicle and determine who was at fault based on the car accident’s details and information. After this procedure, the adjuster will decide how much money you will receive for your claim.
How will filing a claim after an accident affect your insurance premium? Unfortunately, it’s likely that your premium will go up, since one factor that impacts your car insurance rates is your driving record. If the value of the damage is close to your deductible amount, you might want to pay for repairs out of pocket.
Have your car repaired
You’ll get a good idea of how much it will cost to repair your damaged vehicle after you hear from the insurance adjuster. Still, you should visit several repair shops for a price quote before settling on one. If those quotes are way off from the adjuster’s estimate, contact your insurer.
How to prepare for a car accident
One of the best ways to handle a car accident is to be prepared before it occurs. Even if you are an excellent driver with years of experience, statistics show that car crashes are remarkably common. And remember, you could get into a crash through no fault of your own.
How do you prepare for a car accident? Follow these steps:
- Review your car insurance policy. Do this before or around renewal time, which may be on an annual or semiannual basis. Make sure you are fully covered for your needs, whether that means adding collision and comprehensive coverages or tweaking the amount of liability coverage you have. Also, check to see if your insurance provider has made any changes to your policy on their end.
- Consider buying a newer and safer vehicle. If it’s been a while since you purchased a car and you have the budget for it, you may want to think about buying a newer and safer one. A newer car should have better safety features. Those features could save you money on your insurance premium, as well as keep you safe in an accident. Many providers offer discounts for safety features like airbags and antilock brakes.
- Keep a safety kit in your car. Fill it with items that will keep you safe after an accident and during winter weather. Examples include a flashlight and batteries, flares, a blanket, gloves, high-calorie snacks, water and a first-aid kit.
- Don’t leave home without key information, like your driver’s license, registration and insurance policy details.
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