If you operate a motor vehicle, it’s possible at some point you will witness or be involved in a car accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), millions of accidents happen each year. If and when it happens to you, it’s important to know what to do. Any accident, even if it’s a minor fender bender, can leave you feeling shaken and in shock. You may be faced with property damage or serious injuries. To be prepared, familiarize yourself with these ten steps.
1. Remain at the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal.
2. Think safety. Stop your vehicle if it is safe to do so, and turn off the ignition.
3. Stay calm. Avoid accusing the other driver or accepting blame. Leave it to the police and you insurer to determine who was at fault. Focus your attention on dealing with the situation at hand.
4. Assess injuries and call for help. Even before you call the police, check to see if anyone at the scene is injured. If so, seek medical attention.
5. Leave the scene “as is”. If possible, it’s best to leave an accident scene untouched until the police arrive. However, if you vehicle is obstructing traffic, you may need to move it to prevent further damage.
6. Notify authorities. If you do not notify them at the time of the incident, contact them as soon as possible after it. Having a record of the accident, even if it was only minor, can help protect you from any unfounded claims that may arise later. Record the investigating police officer’s name, and ask for the incident number. It will help you obtain a copy of the police report.
7. Obtain information on the other driver(s). Take down the name, address, telephone number, second car, license number, insurer, and insurance policy number of every driver and passenger involved in the incident. Also, note each vehicle’s year, make model and license plate or registration number. Ask to see each driver’s license and registration. These two documents provide most of the the information you’ll need. If the other driver does not own the vehicle, request information on the owner.
8. identify eyewitnesses. If possible, obtain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any eyewitnesses.
9. Contact your insurance company. It is important to report the accident as soon as possible. In the event you need to file a claim, immediate action will help the process move forward as smoothly as possible.
10. File an accident report. Many states require an accident be reported if death occurs, a person is injured, or property damage exceeds $1,000. A time limit usually applies. To obtain a form, visit a police department in the state where the accident occurred.
Accidents are traumatic, but knowing what to do can help you be prepared. Sufficient insurance coverage may also make the incident less costly to you. In addition to basic liability and collision coverage, there are a few policy features that you might find quite helpful and convenient after an accident, including rental reimbursement and towing coverage. For a relatively low addition to your annual premium, rental reimbursement covers your cost of renting a comparable replacement vehicle after you’ve been in an accident. To ensure reimbursement for emergency roadside assistance, consider towing coverage. Regularly review your policy to ensure you have the coverage you require before you need it.