What to do after a Car accident
Car accidents can happen to event the most careful of drivers.
When the unforeseen happens, the first thing you should do is try to remain calm. Here are some tips on how best to prepare yourself to handle the stressful aftermath of an auto accident and to make the claims process — if there is one — more efficient and effective.
1. Check for injuries After the car accident, immediately determine whether anyone is injured. If so, call 911 to get an ambulance and police on the scene. Even if the incident was minor and everyone is cooperative, con
sider calling the police. That way you’ll have an official report to give to your insurance company.
2. Move to a safer area If the vehicles involved are still operational, get them to the shoulder or off the main road. Make sure to pull completely off the road to avoid being hit by approaching vehicles. If you have flares or reflective emergency triangles, set them up to warn other cars. If there appears to be a danger of explosion, get everyone out of the way.
3. Exchange information and document the crash State laws vary on how much information you’re expected to give at the scene of an accident. Generally, you need to provide only your name and your insurance information to any other drive
rs involved. While you might want to hash out the details of the crash with the other driver, it’s best to limit your interaction so you don’t admit guilt or blame the other person. Still, you’ll want to get as much information as you can, including:
Name and insurance information of the other driver.
The other driver’s telephone number, if they are willing to provide it.
Witness contact information.
Photos of any damage.
Police report number.
Police officer’s name and telephone number.
Personal notes on what happened during the incident.
4. Determine what insurance coverage would apply How the insurance claims process shakes out for you after a car accident depends on who was at fault and on the types of coverage you and the other driver have. Assuming the other driver was at fault, here’s how the coverages would work. Your and your passengers’ expenses
Your vehicle: The other driver’s property damage liability coverage will pay for repairs up to the policy’s limit.
Your medical bills: These would be covered up to the limits of the other driver’s bodily injury liability coverage, which is required in most states. In the 12 no-fault states, your own personal injury protection would come into play.
If the other driver didn’t have insurance, or didn’t have enough coverage to pay your bills, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverages would pay out. Uninsured motorist coverage is required in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and some of those states also require underinsured motorist coverage. The other driver’s expenses
Their car:Collision Coverage will pay for repairs up to the vehicle’s actual cash value, minus a deductible. Generally, this coverage is optional, unless you’re financing or leasing.
Their own injuries: The medical payments coverage, or MedPay, part of their policy would work in tandem with health insurance coverage.
Optional coverages that can help either driver
Emergency roadside service: This comes in handy if you need a tow to the repair shop.
Rental car coverage: Rental pays for a rental while yours is in the shop.
Be aware that you’ll probably need collision and comprehensive coverage in order to add rental car reimbursement and emergency roadside service.
5. Decide whether to file a claim If an accident was your fault and the damage looks minor, it’s tempting to offer to pay cash for the other driver’s repairs. But it might be costlier than you think. According to Consumer Reports, a number of test crashes at just 10 mph produced damage that looked minor but priced out at $3,000 to $6,000. You might still
have to use your own insurance upfront, even if a crash was the other driver’s fault. Here’s how it works:
File a claim with your insurance company and be prepared to pay a deductible. Your insurer will communicate with the other driver’s insurance company and refund your deductible if needed.
If you live in a no-fault state, your own PIP coverage pays for injuries to yourself and anyone in the car with you. (You’d still have the right to sue for serious injuries later.)
The other driver’s insurance company will investigate whether its client was at fault. After that, either you’ll be asked to get a repair estimate or an adjuster will assess the damage.
The company may cover medical costs unless you live in a no-fault state. But in both cases you’ll be reimbursed only up to the at-fault driver’s liability limits.
If that’s not enough to pay all the bills, you could turn to your own collision coverage, if you have it, or your own underinsured motorist coverage, which is not required in every state. Deductibles likely apply for both.
6. Shop around for lower car insurance rates Your car insurance rates rates could go up significantly (50% or more, in some cases) depending on the severity of the accident and your insurance company. While some insurance companies offer accident forgiveness, which means your at-fault accident may not result in higher premiums, other companies might double your rate for the same accident. In fact, a Consumer Federation of America report indicated some companies will even raise rates 10% or more for accidents that weren’t your fault. Yet other policies only levy a price increase if you’re at fault. Just surviving an auto accident can feel like a victory. But don’t let your post-crash shock distract you from taking care of business, both at the accident scene and in dealing with insurance issues. This is why it’s essential to compare auto insurance
to find the best price (and policy) for you.