Being involved in a car accident is a stressful and potentially traumatic experience for an individual. Statistically speaking, a driver will average an auto accident claim once every 17.9 years. Regardless, if you have been involved in a car accident, the last thing you want is to feel lost and uncertain of what you should do. This article will discuss everything you need to know from what to do at the accident to how to file an auto claim, and most importantly, what you should do to avoid auto accidents in the future.
At the Auto Accident
- After the car accident has occurred, stay there . It is your legal obligation to remain at the scene. Even if there wasn’t much damage and no one is hurt, you need to stop your car and stay where you are until your have exchanged information with the other party and have talked with legal authorities. If you witness an accident, you should also stick around to report to authorities as well.
- After the initial shock has worn off, stay calm. If you are blocking a roadway and its possible, move your car to a safer location. If your car isn’t driveable, make sure you move out of the roadway to keep yourself safe. If you happen to have flares or reflective triangles, put them out to warn other drivers of the accident.
- Determine the extent of the damage, to both auto and people involved. You’ll also want to take pictures of any damage to submit with your insurance claim. Be careful if there is any broken glass or chemical spills. A broken window or windshield can be a hazard for serious cuts if you are moving around or in and out of your vehicle.
- Even if the damage is minimal, contact the police so you can file an accident report. You may need this for your insurance claim to be valid. Never admit fault or responsibility for the accident. Just give the details as accurately as you can. While you don’t need to admit fault, be helpful and truthful with the first responders, they’re there to help.
- Limit your communication with the other party involved. It’s important to get the information you’ll need for your insurance claim, including their name, contact information and insurance information. You’ll also want to get their vehicle description and license plate number. But other than that, you don’t need to discuss the accident with them. They will also need your contact information, but they don’t need anything more than that. Often people think they will need an image of the other party’s driver’s license, but that is not true. They can’t force you to share that information. If the other party suggests that you handle things without involving insurance, do not commit to anything.
- Record as much information as possible about the accident, including the time of day, the street, the weather, witness names and contact information, a full description of the accident and first responder information. Writing down this information as quickly as possible after the accident will ensure that you have a full description and don’t forget any of the details later when you need to discuss it with your insurance company.
- If your car is not driveable, you’ll need to contact emergency roadside service. Often you can get this included in your auto insurance coverage. If you have a AAA membership, this service is included. The thing to remember is that calling your emergency roadside service will often count as a claim and multiple claims can make your rates go down.
After the Auto Accident
- After you have been cleared to leave the accident by authorities and paramedics, the first thing you will want to do is contact your auto insurance company. If you are able to contact them at the scene that may be even more helpful as the officers can talk with your auto insurance agent. But most of the time, the chaos at the scene does not allow for this kind of discussion. Make sure you contact your insurance company as soon as possible to get started with the claim processing system and start the process of getting your car repaired.
- Your auto insurance company should have a list of repair shops or a garage in your area that will accept your insurance. They will often communicate directly with the repair shop as well to discuss the costs and the process.
- If you’ve suffered any injuries or are just feeling sore from the accident, contact your health insurance about finding a physical therapist in your area. Physical therapy will not only help with any soreness or injuries you have suffered but ensure that you don’t deal with long term effects from said injuries. Try to visit a physical therapist as soon as possible after the accident to help your body being to heal.
- If necessary, you may need to find an attorney to help with the legal percussions of the auto accident. Whether it’s a car accident injury lawyer to help you get full coverage for your injuries and any visits to the emergency room or an auto accident attorney to help prove your innocence, working with a professional will help you feel some peace of mind about the legal implications of the accident.
How to File an Auto Claim
When you contact your auto insurance company to file a claim, an agent will be able to walk you through the process. An auto insurance claim is more than just letting your insurance know you’ve been in an accident. It’s the process of requesting compensation from your insurance company for car repairs for yourself or if you are found at fault, the other party’s car.
If you followed the previous steps, you should have all if not most of the information you need when you first contact your insurance company. You’ll need the report number that you filed with the police, the information for the other party involved, and your full description as well as pictures of the accident. Once you submit your information, you’ll work with a claims adjuster who will work with you to find a repair shop and will often contact the shop to set up repairs. They will also review any injury claims made and ensure that the payments are made. If you need a rental vehicle, your insurance agent will also help you set that up.
Again, you don’t need to admit fault when talking with your insurance agent. They will take in all of the facts provided and decide who is at fault. A non-fault and at-fault claim will affect how much you’ll pay for car insurance in the future.
Once your car visits the repair shop, they’ll determine what repairs need to be made and whether the repair costs outweigh the value of the car. If the repairs are doable and economical, you’ll work with your agent to make sure the costs are covered. If your car is deemed a total loss, your insurance company will make sure that you are paid out.
Many companies also have the option to submit a claim online or via an app if available. Although, if it’s your first time submitting an auto claim, it may be helpful to work with an insurance agent to ensure that you have provided all of the correct information and are taking the right steps.
How to Avoid Auto Accidents
Individuals face many distractions nowadays, and unfortunately, those distractions don’t disappear when someone enters their car. Here are some ways you can avoid auto accidents and be a safer driver:
- It all starts with the car you choose to drive. Some cars have more safety features than others, such as blind-spot monitoring, back-up cameras, and better airbag systems. Make sure you do proper and thorough research before you purchase a car to ensure that it’s as safe as possible and will protect you in any situation.
- Once you have a safe car, you need to make sure you’re maintaining your car. This includes replacing tires when necessary to allow as much traction to the road as possible, changing your oil and filling the windshield fluid, and going in for regular checkups. Even maintenance like an ac repair can make a big difference. A well-maintained car will work a lot more effectively and be much safer to drive.
- Be aware of the weather conditions you are driving in and handle your car accordingly. If there is heavy rain or icy conditions, you may want to drive slower than the recommended speed limit. If you’re driving in heavy fog, slow down and be observant of everything around you. Even on a clear day, the bright sun can be a hazard. Be as observant as possible at all times, especially in dangerous weather conditions.
- The first thing you should do when you are preparing to drive is to remove as many distractions as possible. This includes your phone, exceptionally loud music, and even children. While you can’t just remove children from your vehicle if they’re being distracting, you can talk with them before your drive about how important it is that you can focus on driving and how they can help you to be safer. Phones are a large cause of distractions and auto accidents. Put it in a place where you can’t reach it while driving, and if your car has the technology, hook it up to your Bluetooth so you don’t feel tempted to use it for calls or texting during your trip.
- When you enter your car for a trip, make sure you are prepared for the drive. If you haven’t had adequate sleep, driving is not a smart choice. If you have consumed alcohol or are dealing with extreme emotions, you shouldn’t be handling a vehicle. If you are even questioning whether you’re fit to drive, error towards no to protect not only yourself but other people on the road as well.
- Always be extra aware of drivers around you. A large percentage of accidents occur at intersections, so when the light turns green and you’re ready to continue driving, check both sides of the intersection to make sure there are no red-light runners in the path. If you see anyone driving suspiciously or dangerously, call the authorities. While you may be aware that the driver is being unsafe, others may not. You call could protect not only you but many others on the road.
- When you’re on the road, make sure you are driving defensively. Keep your eyes on the road at all times to be aware of potential hazards from other drivers or nature around you. Keep an adequate distance between you and other vehicles, including not driving in potential blind spots for other cars. While some people tend to use their car horn unnecessarily, remember that it’s there for a reason. Don’t be afraid to use your horn if someone else is not driving safely near you. There are even defensive driving courses you can take to teach you certain tactics that will keep you safe on the road. However, defensive driving does not mean hateful driving. Be respectful of others on the road.
Accidents happen even to careful drivers. If you have prepared ahead of time and know the proper steps to take, you will be prepared and avoid extra unnecessary stress in an already bad situation.