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You want to be prepared for a car accident, whether or not you caused the collision. Preparation will help protect your ability to make aCar insuranceMake claims against a driver at fault and also help him if another driver wrongly blames you for the accident.
Here's what to do in this stressful situation, including preparing to deal with first responders, the injured, other drivers and insurers.
What to do immediately after a collision?
The first thing to do, if possible, is to move the car to a close, safe, well-lit area, preferably public, where other people can see you and the other driver.
That's especially true "if you're hit from behind and think you might be the intended victim of a staged accident," says Scott Holeman, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute.
If your car can be a road hazard, you should move it, even on a sidewalk.
"Keep calm and use your hazard warning flashers to warn of oncoming cars," says Robert Passmore, vice president of auto and casualty insurance for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. Even if you feel disoriented, it is important to have a post-accident plan and survive the incident to protect your rights in the event of an accident.
If you are unable to move your car, position yourself and all passengers a safe distance away from the accident. "But you need to make sure you don't get out of the picture," advises Holeman.
Protect children, pets, elderly and disabled
It's easy to get distracted after a car accident and make mistakes you wouldn't make with loved ones and pets, which can lead to additional injuries.
Whether it's a fender flare or a minor collision, don't leave small children, pets, disabled adults or elderly people who cannot ride in a hot, closed car after the accident. Just as you wouldn't leave them in the car to go to a shop or business, don't turn off the engine in a hot car while you attend to the details of the accident.
If the children traveling with you at the time of the accident are small enough to be in car seats, do not remove them from the car seats after the accident. They may have injuries you can't see, so have a lifeguard remove them from their car seats to check for injuries.
Make sure other children stay in the car when it's safe so they don't get hurt. Do the same for seniors who cannot walk or people with disabilities traveling with you, even if they are scared or upset.
Call an ambulance or law enforcement agency
Once you and your vehicle are in a safe place, check to see if you or anyone in your vehicle was injured at the time of the accident. Call the fire and rescue services or an ambulance if anyone has minor injuries due to the accident. You must get medical help for yourself or others immediately, especially if the injured are children, the elderly or people with disabilities.
When calling 911, ask someone close to you for the location of the accident if you're not sure where it is.
In addition to your name and other identifying information they ask for, be prepared to provide the city, street name and house number closest to you, mileage markers and road signs or signs, the address of the trip and any anything else you think might help them. to find it quickly and easily. Don't hang up until the dispatcher says it's okay.
"While it's not always necessary to call the police, some states do require it," says Holeman.
States have different methods for alerting police via cell phones. This includes dialing dedicated cell phone numbers such as *SP (asterisk 77) for the State Police or *HP (asterisk 47) for the Highway Patrol to report road and vehicle related issues. Remember that "511" is not for reporting vehicle collisions; It's knowing the travel conditions in the area you choose. Make sure you have taught your children how and when to call 911 if needed.
Other states require you to call 911 just to report accidents, although some places will allow you to text 911, which is only recommended if that's your only option. It is important to know which emergency numbers to call in your state, when to report accidents to the State Department of Motor Vehicles and other traffic laws in your state before you are involved in an accident.
If you're out of state and you're in a car accident, the best thing you can do is call 911. Be prepared for potentially long waits for a police response, as police prioritize the most urgent calls, especially during the pandemic.
If the police can't get to the scene, you have to leave before you can file a report, you don't show up because no one was hurt or the vehicles involved aren't blocking traffic, don't panic. Go to the nearest police station as soon as possible after the accident and file a police report. Most states allow up to 72 hours to file a police report, but laws vary by state.
It's important to document the accident with a police report in case the other driver sues you, says Holeman. Get a copy of the police report.
“An accident report can be helpful later in the claim process,” he says.
Talk to the other driver
Establish that you can safely talk to the other driver, and if you can, do so calmly without the help of the police.
"If there is any indication that road rage may have played a role in the accident, be very careful when talking to the other driver," cautions Holeman.
Once you've determined it's safe, "secure and hide any valuables before exiting the vehicle," advises Passmore.
While it's appropriate to chat while waiting for the police, avoid making a confession or blurting out that you're sorry, even if you feel guilty. Avoid expressing anger at the other driver. Do not blame another driver at the scene for the accident, or accept blame from another driver or witnesses at the scene.
"It's best to avoid arguments about who is to blame at the scene of an accident," says Passmore. Health insurance companies have to decide this.
Also, avoid talking about potential injuries. “The extent of damage, to your car or bodywork, may not always be known immediately after a car accident,” says Holeman. When asked if you or your passengers are ok, say something like "Only our doctors can assess our health". This is because you rarely know right away if you or other car occupants have suffered physical injuries. Even with a car accident, they can take hours or days to manifest.
"When talking to other people, stick to the facts," says Holeman. "Don't argue with other drivers who is to blame or how much your insurance costs."
Don't worry about claims payments
Do not make side deals with other drivers to accept the accident or pay cash instead of filing an insurance claim, even if the other driver offers a significant amount or claims he does not have auto insurance.
Holeman warns that "doing a cash 'handshake deal' at the crime scene can expose you to enormous costs later on."
Gathering the right information
At this point, you've had to take so many steps to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the vehicle that you may have forgotten to collect important information. That's why it's imperative to consistently keep your documents in order.
“You should always keep important information in your car, such as registration,security testand the subscriber's name and phone number,” explains Holeman. "It's also a good idea to bring important medical information, such as known allergies and your doctor's name," he adds. Keep similar information handy or readily available for loved ones and pets.
When you start the document exchange process, "you're just exchanging contact information and insurance," says Passmore. This prevents you from saying anything that could be used against you later. Holeman provides this list of what to collect for insurance claims:
- name and contact details
- Insurance company and policy number
- Driver's license and registration
- Vehicle type, color and model
- crash site
Be sure to take pictures or video of the damage to both cars, talk to witnesses, write down everything you can remember, or even record audio or video details.
Here are some tips to help you capture the accident scene.
- Take photos from multiple angles.You want to capture all sides of the cars involved in the accident. Make sure your photos capture all four corners of each car. Take photos of damage and spills.
- Give the image a sense of scale.For example, if you're photographing a dent or scratch on your fender, it can be helpful to use an object like a coin or key to give a sense of scale.
- Take photos from more than one distance.If possible (and safe), stay at least 10 feet away from your car, other cars and/or other objects you collide with (e.g. a street sign). Gradually move towards the collision point and take more pictures as you get closer.
- Take pictures of the area.Take pictures of the street. If the accident occurred at an intersection, it's a good idea to capture all road signs or road signs. Also take pictures of skid marks or dents in pavement or dirt.
- Take pictures of the damage inside the car.This can include deployed airbags and broken windows.
- Take pictures of your injuries.If you can, take pictures of any scratches, cuts, or bruises. This can be helpful if you need to file a damage claim.
- Take pictures of other items that will help tell the story.For example, photograph any objects on the road that could have contributed to the accident, including potholes, road construction, or debris that caused the driver to swerve.
After photographing the crash site, take pictures of other items that might be helpful. Here are some suggestions:
- enrollment.Take pictures of the license plates of all cars involved in the accident. If there are witnesses, it's a good idea to take a photo of the car's license plate, which can be useful to the police or your insurance company if the witness leaves the scene early.
- insurance documentsIf you're exchanging insurance information, it's a good idea to ask to take a photo of the other driver's insurance card. Be sure to record the company and policy number.
- police report.When the police respond to the scene and write an initial accident report, take a photograph. While your insurer may require a certified copy of the report filed with your state's motor vehicle registry (which can take weeks), a photo of the report can help expedite the claim process.
Passmore emphasizes that "Insurers want to know the details of the accident, whether a police report was filed, whether there were any witnesses and any other information that may be relevant to the accident."
Holeman says that if you have a mobile device, consider downloading and setting up your insurance company's mobile app before a collision occurs to speed up the claim process. A good mobile app can be crucial, as in addition to documenting accident details, your insurance company can send a tow truck and offer car rental options through the app.
"Depending on your policy, you may have roadside assistance, towing services, rental car coverage, or other services available to help you after an accident," says Passmore.
Save bills and medical records from the accident later, as you may need them for claims or in court.
How to File a Car Insurance Claim After an Accident
It is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident.
"It will help speed up the claims process and they can help you with other services that can be included in your policy," says Passmore.
While information about theClaims Procedureis often found on an insurance company's website or mobile app, ask clarifying questions about anything you don't understand. It is important that you get everything you are entitled to under your policy and state law.
"Find out what documents you need to provide your insurer, such as 'proof of arrears,'" adds Holeman. "Also, make sure you know if there's a filing deadline and when to expect a response from your insurer," he says.
"Your insurance company, or the other driver's insurance company, will likely want to inspect your vehicle to provide an estimate of the damage," explains Passmore. "If your car is still drivable, you may be asked to visit a drive-in claims center, an insurance-affiliated collision repair center, or use remote inspection tools such as a smartphone app." .
Many insurers have improved their offerVirtual car insurance claimsprocess, especially during the pandemic.
By using mobile tools, you can process your claim faster and get back on the road.
Related: All-risk insurance vs. comprehensive insurance
Troubleshooting a car accident
Once you've filed a claim and provided all the information the insurance company needs, insurance adjusters will determine what's wrong and what you'll get for repairs or replacement of your car if it's damaged.
Passmore summarizes how fault finding works: “Each company's insurance adjusters will gather the facts about the accident and determine who is at fault or to what extent each driver is at fault for the accident based on the details and state law. " he says.
This process depends on where you live as there are 18 statesno fault insurance law, and require you to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) on your policy to pay medical bills for accident-related injuries, loss of income and other expenses, regardless of fault.
In states without no-fault laws, insurers use different methods to determine who is at fault. For example, in some states, your claim amount will be reduced based on your fault percentage.
“Some states recognize that any driver may have some responsibility for the accident and, depending on the specifics, assign a percentage of blame based on the degree of responsibility,” says Passmore. "If there are disputes that cannot be resolved, the courts can decide."
"If you have any questions, always ask your insurance professional or state department of insurance," suggests Holeman.
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Frequently asked questions about what to do after a car accident
If it was a minor accident, do I still need to document the damage?
Even if you were involved in what appears to be a minor accident, e.g. B. If another car has hit your bumper, it's worth photographing the damage and sharing information.
You may want documentation in case you later discover more damage or the other party tries to make claims against you.liability insurance.
If I have a car accident, will my insurance premiums increase?
He doesn't knowCar accidents increase your rates. For example, if the other driver was at fault, you shouldn't see a rate increase at renewal time.
But if you caused the accident or the police issued a traffic ticket, your insurance premiums are likely to go up.
Can I get car insurance after an accident?
if you can still get itCar insuranceafter an accident, but it will not help you in a previous accident. If you are in an accident without car insurance, you will have to pay for your damages and injuries without the help of an insurance company.
Also, you are likely to pay more for insurance if you cause an accident and then try to get coverage because of accident records.