|June 23, 2012|
Previously published on June 2012
1. Make sure everyone is OK.
Top priority is making sure everyone is safe. Before you check out how mangled your car is or exchange insurance information, make sure everyone is OK. Call 911 immediately if anyone is hurt.
2. Call the police.
Reporting an accident to the police is almost always legally required. Plus, the police report has all the information needed for investigating and evaluating the insurance claim. Give the responding police officer a detailed account of how the accident happened and any injuries sustained.
3. Do not apologize.
A simple "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention," can make you liable. Yes, politeness is admirable, but it can be an admission of liability and can affect what you recover from your insurance company and/or the other driver's insurance company.
4. Get witness contact info.
If there are any bystanders who witnessed the accident or arrived on the scene after the accident, ask for their contact information. Eye-witness testimony can help clear up any disputes and the scene of the accident is your best (and possibly only) opportunity to obtain names and contact information for witnesses.
5. Call your insurance company.
Report the incident to your insurance company, no matter who is at fault. Keep track of the time and money spent pursuing your claim. Keep copies of everything you send to the insurance company.
6. Take pictures.
Having proof of the damage to the car will help for insurance purposes and serve as evidence if there is a dispute down the line. It's a good idea to have a camera handy for these situations. Most cell phones have cameras, but if your phone doesn't you should consider keeping a disposable camera in your glove box.
7. Take notes.
As soon as you can take detailed notes about everything that happened. Take pictures, describe the accident, list any damages and note the extent of any injuries. Good notes can make things easier, especially months later when it's hard to remember the details.
8. Be careful who you talk to.
If the other party's insurance company contacts you, your best response is to contact your insurance company or attorney. Why? Because they're better equipped to handle the situation. It's possible the other driver's insurance company is trying to get information to use against you. Let your insurance company or attorney do their job and protect you.
9. Don't automatically accept the first estimate or settlement offer.
Jumping the gun on the settlement can be a costly mistake. Consult with your insurance company or attorney to make sure you're getting the best deal.
10. Get an attorney.
If your injuries are significant, there is a dispute with an insurance company or the seemingly simple car accident suddenly turns complicated, find a lawyer who has navigated these potential mine fields before.
Final tip: Keep an accident kit in your car including a pen and paper for taking notes, a camera to take pictures of the damage, as well as a first aid kit and a road safety kit.