Accidents happen, even with the most careful of drivers. Imagine for a moment that you get into a car accident tomorrow, would you know what to do and in what order? The first thing to remember is to stay calm, the post-accident process is not too complicated but it’s essential that you take a few important steps so that you can accurately document the event and ensure that your auto insurance works for you.
In terms of auto insurances, make sure that you’ve selected one that you trust and that will support you with whatever your needs are, post-accident. We’ve worked with a great number of insurance partners and we recommend AAA as they don’t just offer great customer service, but also genuinely helpful features like Emergency Roadside Services.
If you do fall under the unfortunate circumstance of being in an accident, we recommend learning the steps we’ve outlined below to prepare yourself to handle the aftermath and make the claims process easy and effective.
Step 1 - Check for injuries
The very first thing you should do after an accident is determine whether anyone is injured. If there are injuries you should immediately call 911 to get an ambulance on the scene. However, note that even if you don’t see any obvious injuries, there may still be some so be extra cautious.
Step 2 - Move to secure location & don’t leave the scene!
Next, you should move both vehicles out of heavily trafficked areas. Shift the car into park, turn it off and turn on the hazard lights. If you have them, you should also use cones, warning triangles, or flares for added safety.
Absolutely DO NOT leave the scene. You’ll need to gather details, find witnesses (if possible) and speak to the police, among other things.
Step 3.1 - Don’t accept or place blame
This is very important to remember as it can save you headaches and complications in the future - don’t accept or place blame on the other driver. All of that will be figured out later on with the insurance companies.
Step 3.2 - Exchange information and document the crash
Once both drivers are safely out of harm's way, this is the time to take into account what’s happened and log everything. Start by taking photos of the scene, this includes around the crash site (if accessible), the damage to your vehicle, the other driver’s license plates and any damages done to their vehicle, the direction each vehicle was traveling and traffic signs.
Most important of all, you should also ask to see the other driver’s drivers license and take a picture of it. Also ask for their insurance information and car registration information (if they have it available). You’ll need to get your own information ready to share with them as well.
You’ll need all of these important details when speaking to your insurance provider and filing a claim, so try to be thorough in your information gathering.
Additional details you may want to track includes:
- Exact location of the accident
- Witnesses (get their names and contact information)
- The speed you were driving
- Weather conditions
- Time the police arrive, as well as their name and badge number
- Road conditions
Step 4 - Call the police and report the accident
Do not forget to call the police as the police report will be an important factor that insurance investigators use when assessing your claim. In the case that tensions rise after the accident, they can also act as a calming presence that can establish an unbiased arbitrator between the parties.
Step 5 - Get roadside assistance
If you’re a AAA car insurance customer you’ll have immediate access to emergency roadside assistance. AAA offers reliable and professional towing services to take you to a nearby mechanic.
If you’re using another insurance company, you may have roadside assistance or you may need to look up a service available in your area.
Make sure to get clarity upfront on the pricing and on where they are taking you. An unfortunate truth is that there are roadside assistance services that try to take advantage of extremely stressful situations like auto accidents.
Step 6 - Decide whether to file a claim
The insurance claims process depends on a couple of factors, including who was at fault and what types of coverage you and the other driver have. You should consider the following:
- Which insurance company should cover the claim depends on who or what caused the damage.
- If the other driver is at fault, you could file a bodily injury or property damage liability claim with their insurance company.
- If you are at fault, you could file a collision, personal injury protection, or MedPay claim with your own insurance company.
- Always make sure to follow up with the insurance adjuster so that they hear your side of the story before they determine fault or offer a payment amount.
- Remember that car insurance claims often raise premiums, so expect there to be a change in your monthly payments
Now if you are going to call your insurance to make a claim, make sure to read all the coverage and exclusions sections in your plan before doing so. When you do speak to a representative, always keep notes on the main points you discussed so you can reference back to them at later times.
This may sound obvious, but we recommend always being honest and cordial with insurance representatives. Even if it so happens that the details of the accident don’t put you in the best of light, it’s best to be upfront and share as many details as possible.
What If the Other Driver in the Accident Doesn’t Have Insurance?
If the other driver didn’t have auto insurance, or didn’t have enough coverage to pay your bills, you’ll need to rely on your uninsured or underinsured coverage. If you don’t already have that coverage with your insurance, we recommend adding it. That said, uninsured motorist coverage is required in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and some of those states also require underinsured motorist coverage - so you may already have that set up.
If you don’t have uninsured or underinsured coverage, you’ve also got the option to press charges against the driver and take them to small claims court. However, note that it might cost you more time and money to take them to court than is worth it. Again, that’s why we recommend uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. It’s a safety net for instances like these.
With all of this said, remember that your best strategy is preparation. Make sure you’ve got auto insurance you trust, and that you know what to do in case of an accident. If you’d like to learn more about auto insurance we recommend you also check out our article on 8 Ways to Save More on Auto Insurance.