The last thing you ever want to do when you’re driving is get into an accident. From costly damages to painful injuries, a car accident can have lasting repercussions. When you’ve been involved in an accident, it’s important to know what to do – and equally as important, what not to do. Here are some helpful guidelines.
1) Don’t get upset.
Getting into an accident is upsetting for everyone involved, but it’s important to stay calm. Check for injuries to people in your car and the other vehicle, and treat the other driver with respect. Most accidents are just that- an accident and getting upset will not help the situation.
2) Don’t put yourself in harm’s way.
Accidents can happen in the most inconvenient locations, such as on highways or busy roads. You want to make sure everyone is – and remains – safe while you deal with the aftermath of the accident. If possible, move your vehicle out of traffic to the side of the road. If it’s not possible, get yourself, your passengers, and the people in the other vehicle to move to safety, turn on your hazard lights, and call the police for assistance.
3) Don’t leave the scene.
Depending on the laws in your state and the severity of the accident, it may be illegal to leave the scene of an accident until the police have arrived. At the least, it’s irresponsible and could leave you with legal troubles. Stay on the scene until the matter is settled. In some areas, you may be required to call the police, even for minor incidents. Other times you may just need to file a report later.
4) Don’t admit fault.
If you admit to fault, you could be putting yourself in a bad situation. Your words could be used against you by the insurance companies wanting to avoid an expensive payout, or even in court if a lawsuit is filed. Even saying the words “I’m sorry” can cause issues. Be honest when describing the accident, but avoid anything that could be construed as an admission of guilt when all the facts have yet to be determined.
5) Don’t offer to pay out of pocket.
For minor accidents, many drivers make the mistake of agreeing to pay for damages out of pocket, leaving the insurance companies out of it to avoid premium increases. However, this can be an admission of guilt and leave you without coverage if the other party then sues for personal injuries or additional damages. Always file a report and contact your insurance company to maintain the protections you have paid for.
6) Don’t forget to document everything.
You may end up having to tell your story a number of times – consistency is key. Take the time to photograph the accident scene and damages (if it is safe to do so), injuries reported on-scene, the responding officer’s name, and the other driver’s name, address, insurance info, and license plate. The more information you have now, the better off you will be if problems arise.
7) Don’t agree to repairs until your insurance company authorizes it.
Different insurance companies have different preferred providers and ways of dealing with damages. Contact your insurance agent to help guide you through the process and wait for their go-ahead before authorizing the shop to fix your vehicle.
Getting into a car accident can be scary and upsetting, but your insurance company is there to help. If you remember to stay calm, collect the information you need, and don’t do anything that could jeopardize your coverage, you can get the full benefits of the coverage you have paid for.
This material is for informational purposes only. All statements herein are subject to the provision, exclusions, and conditions of the applicable policy, state and federal laws. For an actual description of all coverages, terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable insurance policy or check with your insurance professional.