You’ve just had a car accident. Maybe it was a little fender bender. Maybe it was something more. No matter how large or small the accident, and regardless of fault, there are some things you need to do to protect yourself and your property.
Move to a Safe Place
Leaving the cars where they were when the accident occurred is ideal, so the police can review the accident scene. However, if there is risk of further damage or risk of causing another accident it is best to move out of harms way.
You need to stay calm, regardless of who is perceived to be at fault or how much damage there is. Don’t yell or start assigning blame and don’t assume blame either. Ask the other driver if he or she is okay, take some deep breaths, and assess the situation completely.
Assess for Injuries
Injured passengers should not be removed from a vehicle unless the risk associated with staying in the car is greater (such as an engine fire). Wait for emergency medical assistance before moving anyone.
Call the Police
It is almost always best to have a formal record of the accident even when damage is minor. The police can act as an unbiased third party and with the police present you cannot be later accused of leaving the scene of an accident.
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive take a few minutes to exchange insurance information. This should include the name of the company, the policy number, and the phone number. It’s best not to share with anyone information as to your coverage limits. It’s also a good idea to get other drivers name and license information. If you have a camera, this is a great time to take photos of both vehicles.
Write Everything Down
It never hurts to keep your own records. Once you’re in a position to take some notes, write down exactly what happened. What were you doing right before the accident happened? What situation led to the accident? Who was involved? What police department, fire department, or hospital responded to the scene? Include as much detail as you can.
Call Your Insurance Company
Last, but certainly not least, call your insurance company to file a report. Never skip this step. Your insurance professional will walk you through the process, help you get a rental car if you need one and have the coverage for. If you don’t file the report in a timely manner it’s possible your claim could be denied.
Accidents happen daily. Just remember to put safety first, get as much documentation as possible, and talk to your insurance professional.