By Contributing Author on Friday, September 25, 2009
Accidents happen to good drivers, bad drivers, young as well as experienced drivers. Even a minor fender-bender can be quite nerve racking and as the surprise and shock sets in it can be pretty difficult to remember what steps to take next. What you do immediately following a car accident can make a big difference in protecting you and your passengers as well as assisting the other driver. Taking the right actions will help you provide accurate information to law enforcement, your insurance company and the collision center.
Although no one wants to think about getting in an accident, a little forethought can save you time, money and maybe even someone’s life. Put together a safety kit and keep it in your car (download our PDF form What You Need To Know from our website). Inside the kit will be medical, automotive and practical supplies as well as pertinent documentation you’ll need should you or another driver ever get in an accident. If there are other drivers in your family it is wise to let them know about the kit. Less experienced drivers tend to panic after an accident. Knowing there are supplies readily available will allow you peace of mind in a crisis.
Even a minor fender-bender can cause damage. And although it may look like no one is medically injured, some wounds and problems are not visible to the naked eye which is why it important not to state you are unharmed until an evaluation has been complete by medical personnel. The same holds true for your automobile. There is auto body damage that you can see and auto body damage that can only be detected by a certified technician. Have your car thoroughly checked out after an accident.
If you have been involved in an accident and there are no serious injuries either for you or the other driver, move the cars involved in accident far enough off to the side of the road so as to not block traffic. Keep cars a safe distance from any moving traffic and always exit your vehicle on the side furthest from other moving vehicles. If there are no injuries and the damages of the accident appear to be less than $1000, although you call 911, police may not come to the scene. If this is the case a dispatcher will instruct you where to file an accident report.
If your car can’t be moved or someone in the car has sustained serious injuries, call 911 immediately. Keep the car and the injured person put until medical assistance or law enforcement has arrived. Moving an injured person can cause more harm, so if at possible don’t move the injured party. To help keep traffic a safe distance from you and your automobile, put cones, triangles or flares around your vehicle and remember to put your hazard lights on.
It is not important or necessary to find someone responsible for the accident. As a matter of fact it is best to not admit fault or try to elicit fault. What is important is to collect information for your insurance company, law enforcement and for filling an accident report. Use the PDF form What You Need To Know or follow the list below to collect documentation from the other driver, any witnesses and law enforcement. To avoid dispute later, don’t discuss the accident with the other party beyond collecting relevant information. If there are witnesses, try to get their contact information as well and don’t discuss the accident with them, let the police and your insurance company do that. Their information may be valuable should there be a dispute later on.
A picture says a thousand words, so get your disposable camera or cell phone and take pictures of the accident. It is important to show all angles of the accident not just close ups of the damage or lack of visible damage to the vehicles.
Law enforcement will ask you questions regarding the accident. Stay calm and answer the questions. Remember you don’t need to prove the other person is at fault, you only need to explain what happened and what you did. If you’ve taken pictures at the scene let the officer know that as well as any contact information you’ve gather from witnesses. The officer will give you an accident claim number. Hold on to this and jot the number down on the form we’ve provided for additional safe keeping.
Finally, call your insurance company to report the accident as soon as possible. When you talk to your agent or representative they will likely want some information regarding the accident. The agent will discuss with you getting your car repaired and likely will ask many of the same questions as the police officer, so keep your documentation form accessible.
When it comes to getting your car repaired, by law an insurance company cannot force you to use its preferred repair shop. If you would like a certain collision shop to work on your car don’t be afraid to speak up. You can expect either yours or the other party’s insurance adjuster to examine your car and give you an estimate. If rental car coverage is in the policy great, otherwise you’ll need to make arrangements for use of a car while yours is being worked on. When it comes to working with a repair shop, don’t ‘settle’ for shabby repair work. Some shops will use generic or used replacement parts, if this is not OK with you demand new parts from the vehicle manufacturer.
We’ve created a checklist for your convenience and recommend you visit our AutoNation Facebook page to download a PDF version of What You Need To Know so you can keep a copy in your car as well as give one to someone you care about.
Before You Get In An Accident:
Be Prepared! Put together a safety kit for each of your vehicles. Don’t reply on your memory to store important information gathered at the scene of an accident.
Inside each kit you should have:
1. A disposable camera for taking picture of the damage. Make sure your camera has a flash for dusk and evening shots.
2. Paper and pen for notes and exchanging information with the other driver.
3. A list of pertinent people to contact and their phone numbers. This includes medical personnel, family, friends, insurance agent and company, hospital preference and local law enforcement.
4. Written documentation of the following: Insurance card (including policy number, what number to call to report the accident, the make, model and year of the car, VIN number and license plate number.
5. Written documentation of updated medical conditions, medications and allergies for you and your family members (since you don’t know who will be in the car at the time of an accident).
6. A basic first aid kit. Include other items in the kit such as flashlights, thermal blankets, cones or warning triangles, fire extinguisher, tool kit and bottled water. Also consider including a couple pairs of work gloves, extra batteries and some nonperishable food.
7. Documentation of what your policy covers so that the driver can make the necessary arrangement following an accident. Rental car? Cost of towing?
What You Need To Know – After An Accident:
1. Get The Following Information From Each Driver Involved In The Accident.
A. Driver’s Name:
B. Driver’s Address:
C. Driver’s Daytime Phone Number:
D. Driver’s Evening Phone Number:
E. Driver’s Email Address
F. Driver License Number:
G. Insurance Company Name:
H. Policy Number:
I. Vehicle Make:
J. Vehicle Model:
K. Vehicle Year:
L. License Plate Number:
2. If Other Driver Is NOT The Registered Owner of The Vehicle.
A. Name of Registered Owner:
B. Registered Owners Address:
C. Registered Owners Daytime Phone Number:
D. Registered Owners Evening Phone Number:
3. Get The Following Information From Each Witness.
A. Witnesses Name:
B. Witnesses Address:
C. Witnesses Email Address:
D. Witnesses Daytime Phone Number:
E. Witnesses Evening Phone Number:
4. Document The Accident.
A. Location of the accident:
B. Date of accident:
C. Time of accident:
D. Cross streets of the accident:
E. Direction you were traveling:
F. Describe how the accident happened:
G. Damage to your vehicle
H. Damage to other vehicle
5. Law Enforcement.
A. Police Officer Name:
B. Police Officer Badge Number:
C. Police Officer Phone Number:
D. Accident Report Number: