Bam! Your car was just involved in a minor collision with another vehicle, and you can feel your adrenaline kicking in. You’re a little shaken up but not seriously hurt, and as the initial shock wears off your mind begins to clear. Now that you’ve been involved in an accident, what should you do next? It’s important to stay calm and focused, and to never leave the scene prematurely or admit fault, even if you did cause the wreck. Obviously, if someone in either vehicle sustained serious injuries you need to call 911 immediately. If that’s not the case, then follow these important steps right after an accident occurs.
Clear the Vehicles and Call the Police
The safety of everyone at the scene is of the utmost importance. If the damaged vehicles are drivable, move them out of traffic to the side of the road. Shift them into park, turn the engines off and the hazard lights on. If you have any safety items in your car like flares, cones or warning triangles, set those up around the vehicles. Double check all people involved for injuries, and if someone is complaining of serious back or neck pain they need to stop moving around until qualified medical personnel arrive. Call the police and ask for a unit to come out even if the accident is minor. Police reports are very important in the insurance claim process when determining who’s at fault.
Exchange Information at the Scene
Oftentimes due to the initial post-collision shock drivers forget to obtain crucial information they should. Involved parties should exchange this information:
The names and contact information for all drivers and passengers
Vehicle descriptions including the make, model, year and color
Driver’s license and license plate numbers
Insurance company names and policy numbers
Accident scene location or address
The names and contact information for any eyewitnesses
The police officer’s name and badge number
Remain respectful and courteous at all times, and do not admit fault. Take pictures of the vehicles involved including the damage, and the scene itself whenever it’s safe to do so. Only sign a document if it’s for the police or your insurance company.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Before leaving the scene of the accident you should call your insurance agent or other
representative and explain what happened. Be as truthful as possible, because not doing so could result in some serious problems later including claim denial. Is your car safe to drive? If not, let them know. The insurance company will direct you on the next action to take, including towing. They may even inquire as to whether you have a preferred body shop, and will tell you immediately if they are in their approved network.
You will then be instructed to either drive the car home, or have it towed to an insurance claims center or collision repair shop nearby. If a police citation was issued at the scene, the recipient will probably be deemed “at-fault” during the insurance review process. Within a couple days a claims adjuster will be in touch with you to explain your repair options moving forward. If you are found to be at-fault for the accident, you’ll have to pay your policy’s deductible when picking up the vehicle from the body shop. Some other long-term things to consider:
If you seek follow-up medical care, keep accurate records.
Don’t agree to close out an insurance claim too soon, especially if the other driver was at-fault and you were injured.
Hire an attorney as a last resort if the other party was at-fault and their insurance company is non-responsive.
In the end, following these guidelines right after an accident occurs will help the entire process go more smoothly.
Get Your Car to a Reliable Body Shop
When an accident strikes, it’s stressful. Locating a reliable collision repair shop to do the work can also be a challenge. Your insurance company will provide input on which body shops are approved in their network. From that list, you can then decide where you want to take it. Most all collision repair shops work directly with insurance providers to ensure a more seamless and stress-free process for you. They will update you on the status of your vehicle, and notify you when the repairs are done. Taking the initial steps outlined in this article will go a long way in ensuring that you’ve done your part to get the process started.