What to Do when You’re in A Car Accident
Oct. 31, 2012
Accidents can happen anytime, even if you are an extremely cautious and defensive driver! Most accidents actually occur within a 25 miles of the home, according to a Florida highway spokesman. Sometimes, they happen right in your own driveway. Just ask my sister-in-law who hit her friend’s car in her driveway while backing up! No matter where they occur there are a series of steps that should be followed after an accident.
The Consumer Protection Association of America continually develops a list of recommendations for drivers so that they’ll actually know what they need when a traffic accident occurs. This fine organization takes major steps to increase public awareness regarding traffic safety. Some of the steps are preventative and should be followed now before you’re involved in an accident.
One, have an emergency kit in your glove compartment or storage area. The kit should include a cell phone, pen, pad of paper, and a disposable camera (this is very important). With today most of us carry a cell phone, which takes pictures. As long as you insure that your cell phone is with you and carries a charge this should suffice for the cell phone and disposable camera in the kit. These items are for recording the key information regarding the accident and the scene. You should also have a card with information concerning any medical allergies or conditions you have that require special attention, as well as emergency contact information. It is also recommended by other agencies that you have a number listed on your cell phone under ICE (in case of emergency), where the attending policeman or EMT can simply hit speed dial on your cell phone to reach your emergency contact. You should also have traffic cones, warning triangles and emergency flares in your trunk.
Two, you need to insure that safety is first! When you are involved in a minor accident and there are no serious injuries, make sure that the vehicles are moved to the side of the road. Do not stay on the road and become an obstacle to oncoming traffic. If you do this, it may result in the occurrence of more and more serious traffic accidents because of your vehicles creating an obstruction in the road. My wife was rear-ended by another woman on an exit ramp and they both left their vehicles on the ramp believing it to be safe and that it was important for the police to see the exact position of the vehicles. In spite of the fact that both vehicles were clearly visible for a minimum of 300 yards and they both had their flashers on, another drive came up and rear-ended the SUV that had originally struck my wife! My wife called me on the cell phone and told me what was going on and I told her to get those vehicles off of the road right away! If the car or cars is not movable, make sure that the other motorists are warned by turning on the hazard lights and setting out flares, traffic cones or orange triangles to divert traffic. If you cannot move the vehicle, do what you can to alert the traffic and then move away a safe distance in case of any further accidents.
When you are involved in an accident with serious injuries make sure that no one is in immediate danger (from fires, falling trees or telephone poles, etc.). After you have made sure of this, attend to those hurt. It is important that you not move anyone that has been seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger. Further injury can occur from movement. It is always a good idea to let the emergency response teams attend to and moved the injured whenever possible to help prevent this.
Three, exchange all of the important information with the parties involved. You’ll need to obtain the other driver’s name, addresses, phone numbers (home and work), insurance company, car insurance policy number, driver’s license number, license’s plate number, and make sure to write down a description of each car, the year, make, model, color and any apparent damage. Also, write down what occurred during the accident as soon as possible. Pay special attention to the position of the vehicles, sequence of events and the cause of the damage.
I recommend that you write down all information readily available to you without the cooperation of the other driver such as the license plate number, make, model and color of the car, driver description and brief description of other occupants. Also, obtain any witness information at this time. As long as no one is hurt, most witnesses will soon depart the accident scene, and you want to make sure that you have their information. After obtaining this info, then approach the driver about their information like driver’s license number, insurance information and contact information. This makes sure that the other driver cannot bolt from the scene while you are distracted without obtaining information and it lets them know that you are all business.
Four, take photos of the accident scene and the cars involved. Use your disposable camera or cell phone to document the damage to all the vehicles and the scene of the accident. If there are important points to demonstrate such as long skid marks, hidden entrance/exit, etc. make sure to document these as well. Make sure that the vehicle photos illustrate the total context of the accident so that they will back up your claims. If there are witnesses, make sure to ask them for their name and phone number, and ask if they’ll help you in case of problems with the other driver disputing what actually happened.
Five, file an accident report as soon as possible and obtain a copy of it as soon as it is made available. In some areas law enforcement officials do not respond to traffic accidents unless injuries are present. You should always call the police and request that an officer come to the scene to right up the police report. They will obtain the information from the other driver, if they are uncooperative with sharing the information with you, and they will write down their observations of the scene of the accident, which will further support your claims. If you cannot get a policeman to the scene where your accident occurs, find out how you go about filing an accident report and do so right away. You may have to go to the local police station or you may be able to download accident report forms on-line depending on your locale. A police report usually helps speed up the claims process.
Six, understand your insurance coverage before an accident. The more you know about your insurance coverage the easier the claims process and procedure will go. Does your policy cover towing or a replacement rental car fee? If yours does not and the accident was the other driver’s fault immediately make a claim for this with their insurance company.
The question everyone is typically concerned with is “Who is going to pay for this?” If it is the other driver’s fault you should insist that they pay for the damage. If they agree, get them to acknowledge this in writing if possible. The other drive may be agreeable to pay for the damage now, but after a little time goes by and they are not in your immediate presence they may have a change of heart and decide to try and stiff you (this is why you need witnesses, documentation, etc.).
I recommend calling someone if available to assist you in the accident management process. They will be much calmer and more objective in seeing that everything is carried out. I arrived prior to the police at my wife’s previously mentioned accident when our van was rear-ended. I checked and made sure that everyone was okay. Then I made sure that the vehicles were a safe distance from the road. Next, I obtained all of the vehicle information (make, model, color, license plate number), photographed the vehicles and the accident scene. I then obtained the driver information from the other two drivers involved. After I obtained the car insurance information, I immediately contacted the other driver’s car insurance company and had them open a claim for the damage that had been done to our van. I did all of this before the policeman completed writing his report. I then talked to the police officer and obtained his name and learned the content of his report. When I determined that I was satisfied the content accurately portrayed what my wife indicated had happened, I asked him for the report number so I could obtain a copy as soon as possible. My doing this streamlined the whole process for our claim and it moved through like clockwork.
The foregoing article was written by the author based on experiences he has had. This article is not stated as a legal opinion or as fact but instead is stated as opinion of the author.