What To Do If You Are In An Accident

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Defensive Driving Tips

Bad things can happen, even to the safest of drivers. For this reason, it’s a good idea for everyone, particularly young drivers, to know exactly what to do should they experience an accident. First of all, be prepared. Some things that may be useful to have in your car:
– Your cell phone
– A camera (if your phone doesn’t have a camera, you can always carry a disposable one in your glove compartment.)
– A card with a summary of any pertinent medical information, such as allergies or chronic conditions, in case you are injured and unconscious.
– Contact numbers for local and state police
– Cones, warning triangles or emergency flares
– Your insurance ID card and your car’s registration
First, don’t panic! Check to see if anyone is injured and, if so, call 911 for medical help immediately. Make sure that everyone knows not to leave the scene of the accident, as this can be construed as a hit-and-run even if that is not the drivers’ intention. If you do call 911, be provide the dispatcher with your name and contact number, a description of the accident and any injured parties, and the details of your location; make sure to stay on the line until the dispatcher lets you know it’s okay to hang up.
Then, get all cars off the road, if possible. If you cannot get a car off the road, have drivers and passengers remain in the car with doors closed until emergency help arrives. Once you have moved the car to a safe place, then raise your hood and turn on your emergency flashers to make your car more visible. Use cones, triangles, and flares to further heighten your visibility. Have all drivers and passengers move away from the cars to a safe location. Next, contact the police. Depending on the severity and location of the accident, they may or may not send an officer to the scene.
Once you have assured everyone’s safety, then take the time to exchange contact information for each car. You will need the name, phone number, and address of both the DRIVER and the OWNER of the car; if someone other than owner is driving, make sure to get both sets of details and to establish the relationship between the driver and the insurance policy holder. You will also need to exchange insurance company names and policy numbers and driver’s license numbers and license plate numbers. If there is a police officer present, make sure to also get his name and the police report number.
Next, take the time to document the accident, if possible. Take pictures of damage done to the cars and the accident scene. Make sure to cover the full extent of the damage done to your vehicle, so that you can later support any insurance claims. Write down a description of each car, the year, model, and make, and the damage done to both vehicles. Once you get home, write a brief description of how the accident happened and what ensued. While this may seem like the farthest thing from your mind at the time, your memories of the event will be fresher immediately after the accident. It can often be particularly difficult to remember traumatic events a few days or weeks later. If you notice any witnesses, see if they are willing to offer their contact details.
If a police officer is not present at the accident scene, then you should consider filing an accident report, as this could assist with the insurance claims process. You can find the appropriate forms at your local police station and/or on your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website.
Throughout this process, try to remain calm, cooperative and polite in your interactions with others. However, be careful not to state to others or to police officers that the accident was your fault, as this could later be used against you in an insurance claim. Even if you feel that you are at fault in the accident, remember that there may be other factors involved that you aren’t aware of; instead, leave judgments about fault to the police.
After you’ve safely returned home, promptly report the accident to your insurance company. While you may be reluctant to do this, fearing a rise in premiums, the situation could end up being worse if the other driver claims and you do not. For example, the other party could claim for damages that weren’t apparent to you at the scene or may have a story about the accident that differs from your version. Even if you live in a “no fault” state, i.e. insurers will pay for expenses incurred regardless of fault; the other party’s insurance company can still seek payment from your insurer if it appears that you were at fault. For these reasons, it’s important to make sure that your insurer knows your side of the story up front.
This may also be a good opportunity to review your insurance policy, in order to determine what is covered and what is not. I’ll cover this in greater detail in a later entry, however.
Finally, make sure to take care of yourself! The adrenaline in your body after a crash may mask injuries that aren’t readily apparent. If you notice any unusual symptoms in the hours and days after the accident, particularly dizziness, ringing in the ears, disorientation or nausea; head injuries in particular can often go diagnosed.
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Practice defensive driving so that you don’t end up in this kind of situation; however, if you are in an accident, being prepared and knowing how to handle the situation will help to minimize the trauma, damage, and cost of the accident.
To read more on a broad range of subjects from “How To Change A Tire” to “How To Jumpstart Your Car”, visit DefensiveDriving.com’s Safe Driver Resources website!
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