What To Do After A Car Accident

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Information to get and steps to follow if you've been in a car accident.

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Try as we might, there are some situations in life that we just can't avoid, with vehicle accidents being a prime example; and, knowing what to do after a car accident is vitally important. With the adrenaline pumping and your nerves frayed, it can be easy to get overwhelmed, which is why it helps to have a simple, easy-to-follow checklist of how to handle the problem. Whether you are responsible for an accident or are on the receiving end, you need to take steps to ensure that you get the help you need, both from law enforcement and your insurance provider.

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What To Do After A Car Accident freepik.com

What Information Should You Get in the Event of a Car Accident?

Even if you are the only person involved in an accident, there are certain things you need to take account of before filing a claim with your insurer. However, there are a few extra Ts to cross and Is to dot when another party is involved. Regardless of whether it is a minor fender bender on your prize BMW 4 Series or a total write-off collision, there are several things you need to take care of.

  • Get the name of the officer who arrives to assist you
  • Ensure you have a copy of the accident report from the officer on-site
  • Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and anything you collided with
  • Get eye-witness accounts of the accident with relevant contact info, if necessary
  • Contact your insurer immediately to see if they may want any other information to start the claims process

Put another way, here is a quick guide on what not to do after a car accident:

  • Don't leave the scene until you've collected the relevant information
  • Don't ignore or underestimate the severity of injuries
  • Don't admit fault - wait for the appropriate investigations to be conducted
  • Don't forget to take pictures, take note of location and gather eyewitness contact details

List of Things You Need to Do after an Accident

Of course, there are times when you will be involved in an accident with another car. And, while the information above still applies, there are other factors you'll need to take into account. Regardless of who you think is at fault, you will need to pay special attention to certain points and ensure that you have more detailed records of the ordeal. Here is what to do after a car accident:

  1. Assess the situation. The first thing to do is to ensure you are uninjured before then checking on your passengers. It would be a good idea to check on the condition of the occupants of the other vehicle, too. If anyone is injured, or even if you simply suspect that they might be, you should call 911 for an ambulance. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Don't leave the scene. If the accident is not too serious, you can pull off to the side of the road to avoid inconveniencing other drivers or holding up traffic. However, if there are any serious injuries involved, you will need to leave both vehicles where they are, and set up hazard signs to let other motorists know to pass around.
  3. Contact law enforcement. While you are not required to call the police to the scene of an accident in the USA if nobody has been injured, doing so can be beneficial. Often, your insurer will ask for a copy of the incident report when filing a claim. They can also be useful for calming the situation if the other driver gets aggressive or confrontational.
  4. Take notes. While waiting for the authorities to arrive, you should ensure you have your story straight. This does not mean blaming the other driver or taking the responsibility yourself - this is something you should never do. Instead, stick to the facts and don't speculate about anything. Generally, police do not like you to move your vehicle after an accident, so you may have to stick to Step 2.
  5. Exchange information. Usually, when the police are involved, they will get the information from both motorists and you can simply ask for a copy. However, you may have to ask the other person directly. The information you will need to obtain in a car accident includes their name, address, contact info, car info - make, model, registration, insurer, and insurance policy number. As when dealing with the police, never admit or lay blame. This to protect yourself from liability. Instead, remain impersonal and professional at all times.
  6. As with Step 4, you need to assess the damages to both vehicles. The more information you have, the easier it will be to file a claim. Thus, take notes on paper or on your mobile phone, and snap pictures of both cars from multiple angles if at all possible. The more thorough you are, the easier it will be to get the claim processed. It may help to have pictures from both before and after the accident. Other information you will need to include here is the location of the accident and time, the directions the vehicles were traveling, and a summary of what happened from your point of view. It doesn't hurt to get witness accounts along with their personal information. If a police officer was called to the scene, you should include their name and badge number along with their report.
  7. Contact your insurer. While this is the last step in the process, it is not uncommon to call your provider immediately after the accident has taken place. They can help walk you through the process of collecting the relevant information to ensure you don't leave anything out. In either event, once you have everything you need, you should send a written claim to the company. This will usually take the form of an accident report form, which they will send you upon contacting them regarding the process.
  8. If any minor injuries were incurred during the accident, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Sometimes, these may be more serious than you know, since internal injuries are difficult to self-diagnose and the after-effects of a car accident can be severe.
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Don’t Leave the Car Accident Scene freepik.com
Call 911 unsplash.com
Get the Name of the Officer Who Arrives to Assist You unsplash.com
Take Pictures of the Damage to Your Vehicle freepik.com
Take Notes after a car accident freepik.com

How Does the Insurance Claim Process for Accidents Work?

After you have followed all the steps above and submitted a claim to your insurance provider, you may feel a little powerless. You are well within your rights to ask the company how their insurance claims process for car accidents work, but here is a quick breakdown of how insurance and car accidents generally work, and what you can expect to happen.

  • You will most likely get a visit from an insurance adjuster. They will examine your vehicle to determine the true extent of the damages. Their investigation will also help them determine who was at fault in the altercation. At the end, they will provide you with a quote of the estimated cost of the repairs, assuming the vehicle wasn't a write-off.
    • In some cases, you may be required to have the damages assessed on your own time by an independent evaluator. You can usually get this done by your local repair shop.
    • In the event of bodily injury, the adjuster will assess this too and determine your coverage.
  • Oftentimes, a company has a preferred repair specialist they will assign to fix any damages to your vehicle. Depending on your policy, you may request that OEM parts be used instead of cheaper alternatives. Keep in mind that depending on the deductible you agreed to when signing your policy, you may need to pay a certain amount out of pocket before the insurer agrees to cover the rest of the charges.
    • It is possible that the insurer may not approve repairs. Never agree to start repairs with an independent shop or even with the recommended service until you have written confirmation of coverage from your provider.
    • Even if repairs are undertaken, you should be aware that it is possible that you will see a decrease in your car's value after an accident.
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Car Crash Pexels.com

What Happens if the Accident is not My Fault vs if it is My Fault?

Firstly, never admit to anyone, not even your insurance company, that you were at fault in an accident. Regardless of how guilty you feel, the fallout from such an admission could be far worse than you expect. Instead, let them determine liability.

If you are indeed found to be at fault, your insurance will be responsible for covering you and possibly the other motorist if they claim third-party reparation. If the crash was someone else's fault, one of two things will happen:

  1. Your insurance company will try to claim from theirs. You should never get involved in this process unless directly questioned by either company. It is your provider's responsibility to obtain payment, if possible.
  2. If the other motorist does not have insurance, or their provider refuses to play ball, then the onus of coverage falls to your insurer. If you do not have UMPD (uninsured motorist coverage property damage), it is possible that such a claim will be refused.

How long car accident settlement negotiations take will differ from case to case, but the average time is between 15 and 90 days. Naturally, you can expect faster turnaround times with more detailed information.

Conclusion

While you may never know what to expect each time you get out on the road, being prepared for any eventuality is certainly helpful. The most important thing is to keep your wits about you and remain calm. This is not always easy, especially if someone gets hurt or your car gets totaled, but there is no reason to suffer twice. Just grit your teeth and follow the steps provided and you'll be able to put the whole ordeal behind you a lot faster and get your claim processed without a fuss.

FAQs

What do you do when you get in a minor car accident?

Regardless of the seriousness of the accident, the basic steps still remain the same.

  • Stop your vehicle and check for injuries.
  • Call the authorities or emergency services, if required.
  • Take pictures and notes of the damages
  • Exchange driver and insurance information with the other parties involved.
  • Contact your insurer and begin processing your claim

Can I settle car damage without insurance?

In most US states, you are required to get insurance when you buy a car. However, if the damages are extremely minor, it is not unusual for motorists to settle matters among themselves and pay out of pocket. If you do not have insurance and are not at fault in an accident, you can try to claim from the other motorist's insurer, but you will likely need to take on the services of an attorney to do so.

Does insurance pay if you’re at fault?

Even if you are at fault, your insurer should still pay out so long as the damages are in accordance with the insurance coverage for a car accident in your policy. However, repeated at-fault claims can lead to higher deductibles and rejected claims. Naturally, your premium will increase according to your risk profile.

Does your car insurance go up if someone collides with you?

If you are not at fault in an accident, there should be no changes to your premium, even if you claim for repairs. However, you will need to ensure you follow your provider's guidelines with regard to no-fault accidents. This may include reporting the accident within a set time frame.

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