Getting into an accident is an unnerving experience. Accidents are never planned or expected, but the best way to handle such an event is to be mentally prepared and know the proper steps to take.
First of all, you need to ensure that your vehicle is emergency-ready by having flares or emergency signage handy. You should also make sure that you have a pad of paper and pen conveniently on board for documenting the other vehicle’s license plate and insurance information.
Another important thing is to make sure you have the proper amount of auto coverage with your insurance carrier. Aside from physical injuries, few things sting more after an accident than to discover repairs will be coming out of your own pocket.
Also, make sure you have your registration and proof of insurance in a place where you can easily access them. Today most states, including Illinois, allow the use of digital insurance cards – check with your carrier to see if they have an app for this purpose. You should also have important medical information on hand about you and other potential passengers – allergies, primary care physician contact info, and so on.
At the scene
Now, let’s talk about the accident itself. The first thing you’ll want to do is pull your vehicle to the side of the road, if possible. Turn off the engine and turn on your hazard lights or use road flairs to ensure you are visible to other vehicles.
You don’t want a fender bender to ever be the source of physical danger. If you suspect that the accident was caused by another driver experiencing road rage, or that you’re being set up for a carjacking, make sure to take extra precautions when engaging the other driver. If necessary, call 911 and wait in your vehicle until the police arrive.
The next step you will want to take is triage – that is, assessing possible injuries. If there are serious injuries, call 911. You can never be too safe when it comes to your health. In the event of serious injury, try not to move the injured party. Let the first responders be the ones to determine if those injured can be moved.
Even if there are no serious injuries due to an accident, you’ll still want to contact the police. They will fill out an accident report and document the scene. If the police are not able to come to the scene of the accident, you can go to the nearest police station and file the report yourself. Chances are you’ll need a copy of the police report when you file a claim with your insurance company.
What about insurance?
Speaking of insurance companies, exchanging information with the other driver is one of the most important things to do when you have an accident. Make sure you get their full name, phone number, and address; insurance company and policy number; driver’s license and plate information; make, model, and color of the other vehicle; and location of the accident.
You will also want contact information on all passengers involved in the crash. If there are any witnesses to the crash, make sure to get their contact information too.
Be sure to take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to all vehicles involved. This will help the insurance adjusters in determining fault.
Do not discuss fault when going over the facts of the accident with the other driver. Fault will be determined by the insurance adjusters based upon the damage, any pictures of the scene, and information gathered on all parties involved.
Finally, you’ll want to notify your insurance company and start the claims process. You should contact your rep while you are still at the scene of the accident, so they can help walk you through what they will need in order to process your claim. Again, if your carrier offers a smartphone app, this is the time to use it.
Unless your safety is at risk, do not leave the scene of an accident until all of these steps are taken. In the event that your accident was with an unattended vehicle and you can’t locate the owner, leave a note with your name, address, and phone number and record the details of the accident for filing a police report and a claim with your insurance carrier.
Body repair and other considerations
If there is physical damage to your vehicle, you are obviously going to want to schedule repairs with a quality body shop like Gold Coast Auto Body. In fact, you may want to keep our contact info in your phone (312.787.0333), just in case. If your car isn’t drivable, it’s a better idea to have it towed directly to us rather than an impound lot or a shop you’re unfamiliar with. You may also want to take photos of your car at the scene to provide a visual record of the damage.
For more information on the steps to take when you are involved in an accident, read this article from the Insurance Information Institute.
If there are serious injuries to you or your passengers, you may want to contact a personal injury attorney. For information on when it is recommended that you secure the services of an attorney, see this Legal Zoom article.
Knowing the proper steps to take in the event of an accident can save lives, reduce injuries, and expedite the insurance claim process.