Driving is part of everyday life for people around the world. It’s the most convenient mode of transportation available. Right now, there are more cars and drivers on the road than ever before. Unfortunately, this also means there are more accidents than ever before. According to statistics by the National Safety Council, in 2017, 40,231 people lost their lives in an automobile accident.
If you’re in an accident — whether it’s major or minor; your fault or someone else’s — you can be prepared by knowing how a car insurance claim works. Every accident, small or large, is a rough part of car ownership; by following this helpful guide to get through this stressful situation you can breathe easy.
So, you had an accident. The first and most important thing to remember is that you are always legally obligated to stop — no matter what. There are civil and criminal consequences for leaving the scene of an accident, so be sure you pull over to a safe area if possible.
If your car or the other car is too damaged to move, try to get everyone to safety and away from the cars. Of course, it’s important to remember that you should never move someone who may be injured, so if you aren’t sure, wait for the paramedics to arrive.
It may also be appropriate to place road flares or traffic cones to warn people away from the scene of the accident. Road flares are important to have on-hand, but it’s just as important to know how to use road flares.
Lastly, it’s important to stay calm. This is a highly stressful situation, but it can be easily resolved as long as everyone remains calm and level headed. It may be tempting to lose your temper, especially if you feel like the other car(s) were at fault — but it will ultimately be up to the police or insurance companies, not the driver(s), to determine fault.
After everyone is safe, always call the police after an accident. Even if no injuries or damage seem to have occurred, it is always important to have a legal record (a police report) of what happened.
Calling the police can keep you safe if a driver claims they were injured in an accident, and actually weren’t. An official police report is often used by insurance companies to determine fault. The police will also often alert emergency response to the scene in case of any medical needs.
At this point, it is important to give a factually accurate portrayal of what happened, to the officer. It is important to know that unless a vehicular crime has occurred before, during, or after the accident, the police are there more as witnesses than in any other official capacity.
You should also record all witness accounts of the accident for your own personal records — they can be important in the determination of fault. Taking pictures of the scene and the damage to both cars is also wise. You can often send the photos right to your insurance company from your phone. These pictures should be close up as well as from a distance to show not only important details, such as highway signs and skid marks but also up-close damage to all cars and property involved.
Make any notes for yourself that may be helpful later including the exact location of the accident as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses and the responding officers.
Cars generally need to be repaired after an accident, so insurance information for all parties involved is absolutely vital. All parties involved in the accident should share the name of their insurance company as well as the contact information and policy number. All parties should also make a note of the names, license plates, and drivers’ license numbers of all involved.
After the accident, it is important to call your insurance company as soon as possible to inform them of the accident. You should provide as much detail as possible, including all the information of the other drivers. Some insurance companies now offer you an easy way to do this via the internet or their app. These allow you to upload everything from an accident report to a drawing of the accident.
At this point, your insurance company begins to take over the process for you. They will send an agent out to view the damage to your car as well as all other property involved. They will then use this information to make an estimate of the cost of repair. You should spend this time reviewing your insurance policy and asking your company any questions about your liability.
After a fault is determined by the insurance companies, you may be financially liable for any deductibles you carry. Your premium may also go up if you are found at fault. An easy way to avoid this extra cost is to take advantage of an accident forgiveness clause that many insurance companies offer. For an additional fee, some companies will agree to not raise your rates the first time you have an accident, this may be a good option to look into.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) may be something you need to add to your insurance policy to keep you safe in the case of an at-fault accident. Having the PIP add on could save you a lot of out-of-pocket money.
After an accident, it’s an excellent time to review your policy and make any necessary adjustments. You may even consider moving insurance companies if you were not pleased with the accident process.
On a side note, this process is slightly different if you hit a parked car or damage property. It is still important to stop and assess the damage. In today’s age, there are cameras everywhere, hit-and-run accidents rarely go unsolved. If the damage is not too severe, it is acceptable in most states to leave a note detailing your accurate contact and insurance details.
If the damage is severe, it is still recommended to call the police and have them fill out an accident report. You should still take pictures and contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
Having a car accident is never fun, but it doesn’t have to be devastating to you or your wallet. These tips can help you navigate the process much easier and make sure you and your car are taken care of. It’s never too early to review these tips before you have an accident! Knowing you have the correct insurance coverage can save you thousands, and knowing what to do in case an accident does happen can help your situation be significantly easier. Pay attention, and know what to do before something happens.