An auto accident can happen to anyone at any time. Whether the fault is your own for driving too fast on a slippery road or the fault of another driver that ran a stop sign, an accident is something that will happen to everyone at some time in their lives. It’s important to know what to do if you’re involved in an auto accident.
Every state requires that drivers do certain things if there’s an auto accident. Conditions and circumstances will determine the importance of these steps and in what order they should be taken.
• Lives before property. Crashes kill thousands of people every year in the United States and injure countless thousands more. In 2008 the statistics dropped to just over 34,000 people killed in traffic crashes for that year alone. Make certain that medical needs are addressed before worrying about the vehicles involved and how to get them repaired.
• Report the accident. State law requires that vehicle crashes be reported. Many states do not require drivers to report minor crashes but always require that accidents with serious damage, injury or death be reported to authorities as soon as possible. Law enforcement agencies will respond to assess the damage, address traffic movement, attend to injuries and complete an accident report. Many accidents appear to be minor in nature but serious medical conditions may have occurred. Call the police when in doubt.
• Exchange information. In the case of minor accidents or those occurring on parking lots make sure you obtain identifying information from the other driver and give him your information as well. This information consists of the driver’s name, address, phone number, name of the insurance company and phone number, and the vehicle’s make, model and license plate number.
• Insurance matters. Make sure you show your up-to-date proof of insurance to the police if a report is being made. If you are only exchanging information with another driver or property owner at a minor accident you should make certain that both you and the other driver know how to contact the other’s insurance company. Insurance agents and adjusters are professionals and will handle the insurance claims that result from your accident.
• Take photographs. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is never more true than when damages in car accidents are contested. Take your own photos even if the police are doing the same.
• Lessen financial impact. Car repairs are costly and most people can’t comfortably come up with several thousand dollars to spend on repairs. Making an insurance claim is the right course of action if the damage is going to be expensive or the car will be totalled. You may be better off not making an insurance claim on minor repairs. Policies with a high deductible mean you’ll pay for all or most of the minor repairs out of pocket even if you file a claim. Even though the insurance company may not make a payment on the accident the fact that you’ve made the claim can be held against you and your insurance payments may go up to maintain the same level of coverage.
• Estimates for insurance. Your insurance company will want you to obtain more than one estimate for repairs if they’re not sending you to a company they already have a contract with. Since the cost repair shops charge for insurance repairs can vary widely it’s a good idea to get two or three estimates even if you’re not making an insurance claim.
Know what to do if you’re involved in an auto accident. It’s important to follow through with the required reporting and paperwork to avoid violating the law or being taken advantage of by unscrupulous motorists and insurance companies. Taking care of the details now means fewer undesirable consequences in the future and a quicker resolution to claims. The goal is to get back on the road and save money while you’re doing it.