Stop your vehicle, get off the road or turn on emergency flashers, and turn off your ignition. You have a legal obligation to provide the other party certain information and to render assistance in case of injury. Criminal penalties can be imposed for a “hit and run” accident, especially where an injury is involved.
After the accident, exchange the following information: name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number for the driver and the owner of each vehicle. If the driver’s name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is and take down the name and address for each individual. Also make a written description of each car, including year, make, model and color and the exact location of the collision and how it happened. Finally, be polite but don’t tell the other drivers or the police that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.
As soon as possible if someone is injured, the damage is extensive, your vehicle has been stolen or you need assistance. After the police have completed the report for the car accident, ask for a copy for your insurance company. Write down the officer’s name and department along with the incident number.
Call your agent or insurance company’s 800-number immediately, even at the scene with the police if possible. Sometimes the police officer can give your insurance company more accurate information rather than information you may not be recording properly because you are upset by the accident. This can save you a lot of time later waiting for your claim to be processed.
Ask every witness what he or she saw. Get their names, telephone numbers or addresses, if possible. Whether the witnesses are residents of the area, businesspeople that work nearby, or passersby who were in the vicinity, try to talk to as many people as you can. Ask them, in particular, if they have ever witnessed other accidents in the same place. If a witness is hesitant to talk to you, don’t beg or threaten them. Forcing information from someone will get you nowhere. Write down what they tell you and, if they agree, simply get their name and phone number so that you, your attorney, the insurance company, or the court can contact them again.
The whole insurance process will be easier following your accident if you know the details of your coverage. For example, don’t wait until after an accident to find out that your policy doesn’t automatically cover costs for towing or a replacement rental car. Generally, for only a dollar or two extra each month, you can add coverage for rental car reimbursement, which provides a rental car for little or no money while your car is in the repair shop or if it is stolen. Check your policy for specifics.
The final question in dealing with an accident is usually who will pay for the damages? If the accident was minor, you and the other drivers may decide to handle the damages yourselves without the involvement of an insurance company. But this isn’t always the best idea, for several reasons.
While the other driver may agree to pay for the damage to your car on the day of the accident, he may see the repair bills and decide it’s too high. At this point, the time has passed and your insurance company will have more difficulty piecing together the evidence if you file a claim.
Also, keep in mind that you have no way of knowing whether another driver will change his mind and report the accident to his insurance company. He may even claim injuries that weren’t apparent at the scene of the accident. This means that your insurance company may end up paying him a hefty settlement, or worse yet, you could be dragged into a lawsuit. So make sure that your company has your version of what happened and check your policy — if the damages paid out by your insurance company are below a certain amount, the accident may not be considered chargeable. And you will avoid the penalty of a premium hike.
Auto accidents take a tremendous toll on everyone involved, both financially and emotionally. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has thus far avoided a serious accident, hopefully, the tips on prevention will help keep it that way. The chances are high, though, that at some point you will be involved in a minor accident. Just keep your head and make safety your primary concern. You’ll have plenty of time to deal with the consequences later.
Body & Fender work in a parking lot?
Beware of quick fix vultures. They often appear when you’re out shopping. They notice the damage on your car and tell you it’s your lucky day: They’ve got the equipment to fix the car as good as new while you shop. Just fork over $250.00, they say, a steal compared to what the body shop would charge. You agree, only to return later to find your car is in worse shape than when you left it, which means an even steeper bill to repair the new damage.