What should you do after a car accident? | finder.com

What to do after a car accident

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AccidentI’ve had a car accident … now what? Step-by-step car insurance and accident guide

Have you been involved in an accident and not sure what to do? This guide provides a list of steps to follow if you’re ever in a motor vehicle accident, from securing the scene to making a claim with your car insurance provider.

Steps after being involved in a car accident

  1. Secure the area
  2. Collect information
  3. Call your insurer
  4. Take care of your vehicle
  5. Make a claim
  6. Post-accident recap

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Secure the area

  • Do you or anyone else require medical assistance? If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately.
    • Apply first aid if you know how and make the person comfortable.
    • If spinal or head injuries are suspected, don’t move them under any circumstances and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
  • Is the surrounding area safe? Make the area safe to prevent another accident from occurring. Secondary accidents account for many of the accidents that occur on US roads.
  • Is the car safe? Make sure that there are no hazards such as leaking fuel or debris lying on the road.
  • Is the car still running? Make sure engines are switched off.
  • Can you move the vehicles? If it’s safe to do so, you should move the vehicles involved in the accident to the side of the road and put on your hazard lights.
  • Have you called the police? Call the police if someone has been injured or if there is third-party property damage where the owner is not present. The police should also be notified if there is any suspicion of drugs or alcohol involved in the accident.

Collect information

The next step is to exchange details with other drivers involved in the accident. Details you should exchange include:

  • Full name
  • Residential address
  • Mobile phone number
  • Driver’s licence number
  • Registration number
  • Insurance details (including name of insurer and policy number)

Ideally, you’ll have a notepad and pen in your glovebox for this purpose. You could also take notes on your phone. Some insurers also now have mobile apps to help with the accident-recording process.

If you have your mobile phone, take photos of the accident scene. As well as the scene itself, these pictures should include the damage to your car, damage to other vehicles and any third-party property damage.

Call your insurer

If possible, call your insurance company from the accident scene. They’ll be able to talk you through the process and advise you of your next step. You’ll usually be advised to not admit liability to anyone.

This is because you may be in a state of shock or may not be fully aware of the circumstances of the accident. It is not up to you or anyone else at the scene to determine fault, which should be left to the police and insurance companies to decide at a later date.

Even if no one is hurt or the damage is only minor, you should still report an accident to your insurer. This is so if the other party involved decides to make a claim against you, or you may develop an injury or discover further damage to your vehicle at a later date.

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Take care of your vehicle

If your vehicle is damaged, you will need to determine whether it is roadworthy before driving it from the scene of the accident. Damage may be obvious in the form of a flat tire or punctured radiator, but other damage may be harder to determine, such as steering or brake problems. Check your vehicle over thoroughly before driving it. If there’s any doubt about its roadworthiness, do not drive it away from the scene.

If your vehicle is not drivable, tow trucks attending the accident may try to talk you into taking your vehicle to a mechanic they are affiliated with. Do not let yourself be talked into anything you don’t understand or trust. Under no circumstances should you sign a contract, as it may be committing you to having your vehicle repaired at a particular mechanic.

Ask your insurer what you should do. You’ll generally be directed to an approved mechanic, which the tow truck should take your vehicle to.

Police Assistance Line

If your vehicle requires towing from an accident where the police were not called to attend, you must report the accident to the police after leaving the crash site.

Making a claim

The final step after an accident is to make a claim with your insurance company. If your vehicle was towed to an auto mechanic that has been approved by your insurer, repairs will usually be authorized fairly quickly.

On the other hand, if your vehicle is drivable after the accident and only needs minor repairs, your insurer may require you to obtain at least two quotes (sometimes three) from different mechanics, from which they will choose the lowest quote.

Whether you choose to make a claim at all will depend on the cost of repairs compared to your deductible, and the effect a claim would have on your no-claim bonus. Many people choose not to make a claim on repairs under $1,000 for these reasons.

Case Study

In a rush one morning, Maurice attempted to pass a bus but was clipped from behind as he changed lanes. The collision resulted in a broken back window and dents on the body of his car.

What immediate steps did Maurice take following the car crash?
  1. Recorded the bus drivers details, the licence plate of the bus, the bus route and time.
  2. Wrote down what happened.
  3. Contacted his insurer and provided them with the details of the crash. They advised him to take my car to a mechanic so that they could asses the damage.
What happened next?

Maurice was confident that all the damage to the back window and body would be repaired with no problems. If not, he expected to receive a pay-out of $9,000.

After both the damage to the car and its salvage value was assessed, it was determined the car would be a total loss (a write-off). This meant that Maurice received pay-out of $7,000, after an deductible of $2,000.

What challenges did Maurice face making a claim?
  • Not understanding the terminology.
  • Not being able to get the car repaired.
  • Not understanding how his insurance policy made the distinction between paying for repairs and a cash payment.
Tips from Maurice for those who have been involved in an accident and need to make a claim?

Make sure you read your policy and understand the terminology to avoid frustration and confusion when making your claim. Understanding the following terms can lead to less confusion when making a claim:

  • Salvage value. This is how much the insurer can get for selling off your damaged car or its parts.
  • Total loss. This is when the insurer decides to write-off your car.
  • Deductible. This is the amount you are charged when you make a claim.

Pay-out breakdown

Insured car amount $9,000
Salvage value$4,500
Difference$9,000 – $4,500 = $5,000
Quoted cost of repairs$7,000
Total loss and payout$9,000 – $2,000 = $7000

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Post-accident recap

The main things to remember after you’ve been involved in an accident is to make sure:Police

  • The area is secure and everyone is safe.
  • Those who are injured are attended to and an ambulance is called.
  • The police are called if necessary.
  • Your insurer is contacted as soon as possible.
  • Everyone involved exchanges information.

One final thought: Stay calm. Getting angry about an accident, even if it is not your fault, is not productive and will only make the whole process more difficult. The best thing you can do after an accident is to go through the steps listed here and let the insurance companies argue the legalities of the situation at a later date.

Picture: Walter, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)
Picture: Highway Patrol Images, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)

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