Accidents happen. Sometimes, they’re completely out of our control. There’s no feeling as frustrating as hitting a patch of ice or getting rear-ended by a texting driver. Incidents happen every day; they cause the traffic we sit in on the way to work and are one of the leading causes of death and injury in the country.
With the increasing rate of distracted driving, people are becoming more and more likely to be involved in a collision. So, what’s your plan if you get into an accident, whether it’s a one-car incident or a collision with another car, and whether you’re at fault or not? While every situation varies, there’s a set of guidelines you should follow anytime you get into an accident. In order to reduce any additional stress, make sure that your vehicle is insured ahead of time; this will lower your costs exponentially.
Take a deep breath.
Dealing with a stressful situation can only get worse if you’re not calm. You might be angry at the person who cut you off or worried because you will be to be late to your meeting. You’ll probably be a little shaken up too. All of these are normal emotions, but for the sake of solving the problem, keep a level head.
Think about calling 911.
If anyone in your vehicle or another vehicle is injured, call 911 immediately so an ambulance can assess the situation. If nobody is injured but the damage is significant, calling 911 to get the police on the scene might be the best plan. Even if there isn’t much damage, calling the police to get an official report to give to your insurance company is recommended.
Move your car out of the way.
If your car isn’t damaged beyond the point of operation, try to get it off the main road to not disrupt the flow of traffic or cause collateral damage. If it’s dark out and you have a flare in your car, set it off to warn other drivers.
Document the accident.
You’ll need to exchange information with the other driver(s). If you have a smartphone, use it to take pictures of the damage of both vehicles and take a photo of the other driver’s insurance card. The more you have, the better. It’s also a good idea to ask the other driver to see his license to prove his identity. Collect the names and contact information of any witnesses. Drawing a diagram of the accident scene and how it was caused might help too.
Decide what insurance coverage applies to this accident.
If you are at fault, you need to figure out if your insurance will cover everything involved in the incident. You will need to pay for the other driver’s medical bills, your own injuries, the damage done to the other driver’s car, the damage done to your car, and emergency roadside service. If the accident was a single-car accident, you’ll only need to cover the damage to your car and injuries.
Decide if you want to make a claim.
If your insurance company offers accident forgiveness, your premiums will not increase. However, if your company doesn’t, you’ll most likely experience a premium rate increase. Some people might want to pay for the other driver’s repairs out-of-pocket to avoid higher premiums, but this can sometimes cost you more than expected. If the other driver is at fault, their insurance should cover it. Filing a claim with collision insurance will make the repairs faster, but you’ll have to pay for a deductible. If you’re not at fault, this deductible will get reimbursed by the other person’s insurance company. If you’re filing an injury claim, you might have to use your own PIP coverage if you live in a no-fault state – Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and Utah. The other driver’s insurance company will assess if their client was at fault. You’ll need to get a repair estimate and a rental car to use until your car is fixed.
If you’ve never been in an accident, this probably sounds like a lot of steps. The process of interacting with the person in the other car and choosing to file a claim is extremely important. Filing a claim could save you thousands of dollars in damage costs, but it’s a judgement call; if the damage is minor enough, it would cost more to pay the higher premium than for the repairs. Making this decision – among others – is why you need to keep calm and not panic after a collision.