March 18th, 2020 | Updated on June 28th, 2022
Car accidents seem to be an inevitable part of your life as a driver. A minor accident will put you back on the road in no time.
More severe accidents need your undivided attention from a legal and insurance standpoint. When it comes to the severity of such an event, you should know what to do.
Safety Comes First
A minor fender-bender may leave only some marks on your vehicle (and the other’s if you bumped into somebody’s car). A car crash generates emotions and even panic.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, here are the first things you need to do at the scene:
- Stop immediately. It is your legal obligation. If you suffered an injury, it is better not to move.
- If you are alright, get out of the car and assess the situation. Is anyone in physical danger? Are the other traffic participants, alright? Do you need to request help?
- Call the police.
- Call 911 immediately if someone has suffered injuries.
- Pull the car to the side of the road only if the accident causes significant traffic inconveniences. If not, it is better to wait for the police.
- Take protection measures in case you fear you were the victim of road rage or attempted carjacking.
Document All The Car Accident’s Details
If you collided with an unattended vehicle, try to find the owner. If you can’t, leave all your contact details, so the other party gets in touch with ease.
In a car crash on the road, do not admit responsibility for the accident, even if you were at fault. Since you have a contract with an insurance company, they should do all the talking. You will most likely file a claim.
Now, let’s see what you should do after you get a hold of your emotions:
- Do not discuss the details of the accident with the other party involved. Reserve such information for the police, medical personnel, and insurance representatives.
- Exchange only the necessary information with the other party: full names and contact details; insurance companies’ names and policies’ numbers; driver licenses and cars’ plates numbers; type, color, and model of the vehicles involved; accident’s location.
- Start taking pictures of your car and the other vehicle involved in the accident. Take snapshots from all available angles. When assessing your claim, your insurer may want to see these pictures.
- Sketch a diagram of the accident – most insurers will want to understand who was driving from what direction.
- When the police arrive at the scene, ask for the officers’ names and badge numbers.
- Ask for a copy of the police report on the accident. When processing your claim, your insurer may want to read this report.
- If the accident was just a minor bump, you might still have to report it to the police, but you can also register some facts yourself: time and date of the accident; driving conditions including weather; damages visible to all vehicles involved; injuries to all drivers, witnesses, pedestrians, etc.; names and contact info from witnesses.
File An Insurance Claim
The police report and the insurance report on who was at fault in the accident may differ. Nevertheless, you still need to discuss matters with your agent to start the claim process.
It is useful if the car suffered severe damages. You should consider two situations at this point.
Worst Case Scenario: Totaled Car and Injuries
If the accident was severe and you suffered injuries, you need to receive the appropriate medical care. The police will also analyze facts and proofs thoroughly to determine fault. They may initiate a criminal investigation against the party at fault.
From an insurance point of view, your policy issuer will evaluate the state of the vehicle. They will decide whether to total your car or not. In this case, you need to know the following information, because you will need them after you recuperate from your injuries.
- An insurance company will declare a car a total loss when the repairs costs are equal or close to the full value of your vehicle.
- The value of your car. You can learn this by checking out platforms like the Kelly Blue Book; your insurance company will probably use a similar tool when evaluating the damages.
- The costs of repairing your car. An insurance company determines these expenses by using estimation tools paired with the total loss threshold by state. It is a state-defined number that depends on where you live. Your state may have imposed a limit describing the point at which your car is a total loss. In most states, this threshold is 75%. It means that if the vehicle repairs’ cost 75% of the entire car value, the car is a total loss.
- The help you can get from an attorney. If you suffered injuries caused by a car accident and the vehicle seems a total car loss, an attorney can help you recover what you deserve. Discussing your questions with a lawyer is helpful, especially if you are eligible to file a claim for medical costs, emotional distress, or other damages, even if you were partially at fault for the accident.
The Best Case Scenario: No Injuries, Minor Car Damages
In this case, after you finish with the accident’s documentation and reporting, you decide whether you pay for the car’s repairs or you file a claim with your insurer.
It is important to remember to call the insurance company (or use its app) right from the scene of the accident or immediately after.
Upon the evaluation, your insurer may recommend to you a few body shops that can fix your car. They can also make the due diligence for you to drive a new car while yours is under repairs.
Bottom Line: Drive Safer
The safety technology we have on our vehicles may make the difference between life and death. Consider tech upgrades to make your car safer.
From Automatic Emergency Breaks to dashboard cameras, you have plenty of choices. Some of these tech innovations are standard for new vehicles.
You could also join defense-driving classes. The main idea here is that cars are safer now and you can drive for decades without accidents.