If You’re Involved in an Accident…

Automobile insurance is a requirement for every motorist to have. It’s a commodity, however, that no motorist ever wants to use. The legal and financial effects of an accident, not to mention the risk of serious bodily injury to oneself and to others, makes dealing with an insurance claims department an undertaking of overwhelming displeasure. Still, accidents do happen. If one happens to you, here’s a list of things to do that may help you to navigate your way through the process:

  • Attend to any injuries, whether in your vehicle or another, as well as pedestrians. Make sure that someone calls an ambulance and the police.
  • If your vehicle can still be driven, move it to a safer location in order to prevent further damage. Warn oncoming traffic away from the collision.
  • If another vehicle is involved, get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, license number, vehicle registration number and insurance company, and give him or her your corresponding information. Examine the driver’s license to see if there are any restrictions which weren’t being followed (such as wearing eyeglasses, for example). If the vehicle is registered to someone else, get that person’s name and address as well.
  • Get the names and addresses of any witnesses, and any statements of what they saw. This is especially important if you think that you were not at fault. If they refuse to give you a statement, get the license plate numbers of their cars. Also, be sure to get the names and badge numbers of the police offices who arrive at the scene.
  • If you suspect that the other driver has been drinking, insist that you both take a sobriety or breath test.
  • Write down your recollection of how the accident transpired, including your own traveling speed. Include the time of day, weather conditions, and any hazardous circumstances (such as blind spots). Describe the area, noting exactly where the accident took place. Do this while you’re still at the scene and your impressions are fresh.
  • Don’t sign anything unless required to do so by the police. Don’t admit guilt or even shared guilt. Don’t say that your insurance will cover everything, or mention how much coverage that you have.
  • Ask the police whether you should report the accident yourself, and if so, how and where. You may need to do so if the accident occurred on private property.
  • Call your insurance agent and let him or her know exactly what happened, along with any evidence that you have. Do not rely on the other person’s promise to pay. Report even small accidents if someone was hurt; the injury could turn out to be more serious than it first appeared. You could risk losing your coverage if you don’t.
  • If you or any of your passengers were injured in any way, even minor bruises, see a doctor to have it checked out. It’s much better to be safe now than sorry later.
  • Cooperate with your insurance company on filling out forms and making reports. But do not make a quick, final settlement with any company, either your own or the other driver’s. Injuries that don’t seem serious initially could worsen over time.
  • If your car is struck (while parked, for instance) by a hit-and-run driver, notify the police within twenty-four hours. Again, failing to report an accident could subject you to the loss of your coverage.
  • If you’re sideswiped and feel that the other driver means to do you some harm, keep going, if you’re able to, and find a police department or safe area in which to call them. Notify your insurer from there as well. Normally, you shouldn’t leave the scene of an accident, but your personal safety is certainly an extenuating circumstance.
  • Be sure to keep good records of all expenses associated with the accident, such as lost paychecks or the cost of renting a car while yours is being repaired. In a no-fault state, your insurance company may pick up that tab. In a fault state, the other driver’s insurance company should reimburse you if the accident was his or her fault.
  • If the accident was a serious, talk to a lawyer to become aware of your rights and obligations, as well as the amount of damages that might be involved.

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