Have you ever been in a car accident before? Around 40% of the cars on the road have been in some accident. If you were just a passenger in a past accident, chances are you may be the driver involved in the future.
You may think you’ll be able to keep a cool head and take care of what you need to when you’re involved in a car accident. But you don’t know how you’ll react until you’re in the moment.
The aftermath of a car accident can be straightforward or quite complicated. If you don’t know things like how long to wait for an insurance adjuster, you might not realize the other insurance company isn’t doing its job.
Do Your Best To Prepare For The Worst
The best way to handle a car accident is to be prepared for the risk. This means you need to know what your state laws are for liability and what your insurance covers. Knowing the rules of the road not only prevents accidents but also helps you advocate for yourself.
Look at your car insurance policy. Talk to an agent to find out what types of accidents are covered, what types of claims will raise your premiums, and whether you need personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. Knowing your policy can alert you to gaps in your insurance before an accident happens.
Here’s a clear guide on the steps to take at the scene, as well as how to follow up with insurance.
1. Get To Safety
When you get in an accident, your first inclination might be to assess damage or establish fault. But actually, getting to safety is a top priority. If possible, drive your vehicle off the road to safety. If your car is undrivable and still in a traffic lane, put your hazard lights on and exit the car safely.
2. Exchange Information
Make sure others involved in the accident are still present and take photos or write down license plate numbers. Get other driver’s insurance information, but keep the conversation minimal.
3. Call The Police If Necessary
If there is any possibility of personal injury, call the police. If there is any damage to vehicles or property, call the police. Some states only require a call to the police if someone is injured or property damages exceed $1,000. Look up your state’s policy on calling the police. If there is any doubt at all, just make the call.
4. Limit Conversation With The Other Party
Your interactions with the other affected people should be limited. This is not the time to establish fault, express anger, or try to work out any plans. Express concern for others’ safety, but don’t insert yourself as a medical professional. Don’t affirm anything, even if you feel like it was your fault.
5. Record Facts
Your responsibility is not to be a detective and solve a case, but basic information can be helpful to record before you forget. If a police officer writes a report, ask for a copy when available. This is especially helpful if the officer took any witness statements.
6. Contact Your Insurance Agent
You need to contact your insurance agent even if the accident was not your fault. They will help you navigate the aftermath. They will be in communication with the other insurance company involved. You should not have to speak with the other insurance company unless it is to set up a time for an adjuster to come out.
Your insurance agent can help you figure out a temporary vehicle rental. They will also guide you through the process of assessing damage, even if another insurance company sends its own adjuster. Your provider can help make sure the assessment is accurate.
Most cases end with the insurance company issuing you a check for repairs. This means you have the freedom to go to whatever mechanic or body shop you prefer. It also means if the damage is just cosmetic and you choose to live with it, you get to keep the money for whatever you want.
Whatever your outcome, doing your homework about your car insurance before you get into an accident is key. Ask questions about the what-ifs and make sure your coverage satisfies your financial flexibility and risk tolerance.
Maria Hanson writes and researches for the car insurance site, CarInsuranceComparison.com. She is passionate about helping people find the best insurance to meet their needs.