Everything That You Need To Do After A Car Crash To Protect Your Rights
Car accidents happen. You are not alone. Drivers are now even more distracted than ever. There are over 6 million car accidents every year in the US. Luckily we have a checklist for you to follow in the event of a car accident to ensure your safety and also protect your rights.
Being prepared for an accident before it happens is important. Make sure you have a first aid kit in your vehicle. A small fire extinguisher is also a good idea. Add pen and paper to your first aid kit or glove box to take notes in case of an accident. Have contact details, medical aid details, and allergies in an easily accessible place like your wallet where first aid responders will be able to find it. For a more extensive kit also include a warning triangle, flashlight, and flares.
Check your insurance cover for the following:
Does it cover towing costs?
Will you get a rental car if your car has to be repaired or scrapped?
Stop, and don’t drive away. Legally you need to stop if you had an accident, even a minor one. Even in the event of a minor car accident or bumper bashing, don’t drive away. You will need to stay at the accident scene and follow the next steps in our list. Stay calm, don’t get angry, and focus on what needs to be done in the next few minutes.
Your priority is to ensure your safety. Check if you are hurt. Your safety comes first, then the safety of anyone else. Remember you can’t help anyone else if you get hurt even worse. If you are ok and not in danger of further injuries then check your passengers if any. Anyone with injuries should not be moved if it is safe to stay in your vehicle. Call emergency services immediately.
In the event of a minor accident, vehicles can be moved to the side of the road to avoid further accidents. If the car cannot be moved or if someone is injured keep your seatbelt on and switch on hazard lights. If your car cannot drive, but you are fine then also put a safety triangle or flare in the road to warn other motorists. Then move yourself and uninjured passengers to a safe place away from the road and accident. Pay special attention to children and pets. Make sure they are ok and safe.
Check if you smell smoke or fuel. Is the vehicle in a safe position on the road or is it safe to leave it right there? You don’t want the accident to get worse and involve more vehicles. Switch off your ignition and turn your hazard light on if it is ok to leave the vehicle in position.
Call Emergency Services
Immediately call 911 or the appropriate emergency services. Give all the details you will be asked for on the telephone as well as your exact location. Wait for the police or highway patrol to arrive at the accident scene. Remember in many states you are legally required to report a car accident.
Emergency medical services will also arrive to take care of anyone who might be injured. Let them perform their job and do not hinder them in any way. They will decide if anyone needs to go to the hospital in an ambulance.
If a police officer is dispatched to the scene, you could wait for a while. Minor car accidents are not the priority of law enforcement. The police officer will likely ask all drivers for licenses, proof of insurance, and registration. They will also ask questions about the accident and take your statement as to what happened. They will also do the same for the other drivers involved. Ask the police officer when he is finished for his badge number, contact telephone number, and name. Also, ask him where you can get a copy of the police report. You will likely need this for your insurance claim.
In some states or areas if it was only a very minor accident law enforcement will not come to the scene. You will have to file a report yourself. These can often be done online. You can also file these at a police station.
Record All Necessary Information
Use your mobile phone camera to take photos of the accident scene. Take photos from all angles. Get photos of all vehicles from all sides. Also, remember to take photos from further away to get the whole scene and surroundings. Take clear pictures of any damage to the vehicles. Get the car make and model visible in the photos.
Take photos that will clearly show any obstacles or hazards that could have contributed to the accident. Also, make sure to get photos that show any intersections or road signs that might be important. Check for skid marks and also photograph those.
Take photos of the other driver’s license, registration, contact details, and insurance details. Insurance details should include the company and policy number. Get clear photos of the vehicle number plates and also VINs. Make sure to get a contact number and address for everyone involved. This way you know you didn’t make any mistakes in writing those down. Also, give all the same information to the other driver.
When talking to the other driver don’t mention anything about who is at fault. Keep calm and be courteous. Don’t get into any discussions about who was at fault. The insurance companies and the police will sort out the details of who was at fault. There is no need to get any parties angrier than they already are by discussing the details of the accident. Car accidents are traumatic events for everybody and the best is to stay cool and calm. If you don’t feel safe talking to the other driver then rather wait for the police to arrive before doing so.
Your insurance policy contract will most likely state that you are not allowed to admit responsibility for an accident. If you want your insurance claim honored then don’t admit that it was your fault. Just say that the insurance companies will need to handle the claims. Just exchange details and do not talk about the accident with the other driver. When the other driver asks if you are ok it is also a good idea to say something like you are not sure and might get a checkup at the doctor. Some injuries you might only know about later and saying you are fine could be a problem in your claim.
Another good tip is not to agree to handle the costs of the accident privately. Rather get your insurance company involved from the start. The other driver might agree on the scene to handle the costs privately, but change his mind after the fact. You or another party involved in the accident could also have medical costs after the fact even if you feel ok at the time. Remember that if you need compensation for medical bills after a car accident it is best to see an attorney. Don’t make any deals about costs on the scene, you could run into major issues in the future.
Either write down or make a voice note about everything that happened. Think about what happened before the accident. Make a note of the time and weather as well. Describe exactly how the accident occurred in your notes. It is easy to forget details as time passes. Remember to draw a diagram of the scene and what happened. Mark the direction of travel of all vehicles before the accident and which way they were facing after the accident. Also, make a simple drawing from the top of each vehicle and indicate which sides were damaged.
Get the contact details from any witnesses at the accident scene. This might come in handy at a later stage if there are any disputes as to what happened.
Phone Your Insurance Company
It is a good idea to phone your insurance company even before leaving the scene. They will also help guide you through the process. They will also confirm what they will need for you to submit a claim and walk you through the process. Especially if you have cover for towing costs it is better to speak to your insurance before the car is towed.
Your insurance company will likely want to send someone to inspect your vehicle. They will also look at all the evidence provided by you and the police to check who was at fault for the accident. Some insurance companies will allow you to submit photos and not physically inspect the vehicle.
Go See Your Doctor
If the accident was anything more than a light bumper bashing it is a good idea to see a doctor for a check-up. With the adrenaline flowing during and after a car accident it is easy to not feel any injuries. After the fact as you calm down, some injuries might make themselves known. Your doctor will also know what to ask and what to look for to identify any injuries you might have missed.
Insurance and Expenses Covered
Let us assume for now that the other driver was at fault for the accident. Your costs and expenses covered will work as follows:
Damage to your car. This will be covered by the other driver’s insurance.
Your medical bills. The other driver’s insurance will cover these costs. In some states, however, your insurance will be covering this. These are the -no-fault states.
Towing costs and car rental. This can often be added to your insurance cover and then your policy will cover the costs.
If the other driver does not have insurance or enough insurance then uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage will pay for the shortfall.
Costs and cover for the other driver:
Damage to their car. They will have to either personally pay for these damages or if they have collision damage cover their insurance will pay. They might have a deductible as well that comes out of pocket.
Their medical bills. Their health insurance and medical coverage from their insurance will cover these. There might also be out-of-pocket expenses not covered.
Their towing costs and car rental. If they added these options to their insurance cover these costs will be covered.
Often when filing a claim with your insurance company you will have to pay a deductible to get your vehicle fixed or replaced. Your insurance company will pay for the repairs or replacement vehicle less the deductible which is for your pocket. They will then attempt to get their costs and your deductible back from the at-fault driver’s insurance. If they are successful they will then refund your deductible to you. In some states, the blame for the accident might also be shared. This means that a percentage of the liability is assigned to each driver.
If you suffered serious medical injuries you can also talk to an attorney. Even if injury and medical insurance covered some or all of the immediate costs you can still file a personal claim against the at-fault driver for long-term damages.
Remember to document and save any bills and proof of expenses either related to property or medical costs. You might need these later for your insurance or a legal case. Remember to consult an attorney with experience in car accident claims if you need any further advice on recovering costs from the at-fault driver.
Be prepared and keep the necessary equipment in your car. You can check the list again above. Remember the rule: safety first. Make sure you and everyone involved in the accident are safe. Inform the authorities and record all needed information.
Don’t admit guilt to the other driver and follow the instructions of your insurance company as well as law enforcement. If you need help afterward with reclaiming costs from the at-fault driver rather consult an attorney with experience in motor vehicle accidents.