How do insurance companies and courts determine who is at fault after a car accident? How can you protect your legal rights following an accident? How will the limits of your car insurance affect an injury claim? These questions, and more, will be answered in this section. You’ll also find detailed coverage for different types of vehicle accidents.
Car accidents can be unpleasant experiences. Although emotions run high and confusion reigns on the scene, there are steps you can take that will help you protect yourself and any claims you make.
1. Don’t leave the Scene
It would be best to leave the accident scene until you have received permission from all law enforcement officers and exchanged information with other victims. You risk a hit-and-run charge if you leave the accident scene before that.
2. Check for Injuries
Start by determining if anyone is hurt, and then move on to anyone else in the vehicle. Get out of your vehicle and inspect the other drivers and passengers if it is safe. Call 911 immediately if you find any injuries. You can also call 911 if you aren’t sure whether the call is necessary.
Don’t provide any assistance beyond what you are trained to. You should not move anyone if they are in immediate danger from an external source (e.g., a fire). Find out more about car accidents and the importance of getting immediate medical attention following a car accident.
3. Call the Police
A police officer will be dispatched to the scene if there are any injuries. It’s okay to call 911 if there are injuries, but it’s still okay for you to report the incident to local law enforcement.
Even if the incident is minor, it’s still a smart idea to call the police. They will create police reports and talk to all parties. If it turns out that the other driver is under the influence, or driving with no car insurance, the presence of a police officer could be very helpful.
4. Move Vehicles
If there are no injuries or minor accidents, you can move all vehicles to the shoulder. This will prevent traffic jams and help first responders reach the accident scene.
5. Obtain Insurance and Personal Information
Identify all other drivers involved in the accident. Get their names, contact information, and driver’s license numbers. Also, get details about your car insurance (company, policy number). To avoid any errors in transcription or loss of information, take a photo of the insurance card and driver’s license of the other driver and email it or text it to you.
Get the names and contact information of witnesses. To confirm what occurred, your attorney or insurance company may require their testimony. Make sure you get the badge number and name of the responding officer.
6. Gather Evidence
You should also identify any witnesses and try to obtain any evidence. Take note of details about the vehicles involved in an accident like:
- general description
- Number of license plates
Photograph any damage to the vehicle, skid marks, or other conditions. If your accident happened at a four-way stop and your stop sign is missing or lying face down in the grass, take a photo to prove this. This is a crucial piece of the liability puzzle.
Check the area for cameras, such as security or traffic cameras. Please take a note of where they are located and contact anyone you need to obtain a copy.
7. Watch What You Say
No matter your feelings or beliefs, listen to what you have to say at the car crash scene. Don’t admit to the fault of the other driver. Even if you believe that you are at fault, facts can be revealed later that prove you were wrong. It may be too late for any exonerating evidence if you admit liability at the scene. Do not lie, especially when you are addressing the police.
Do not promise anything to another driver, especially if it involves the police or insurance companies.
8. Write What Happened
Write down everything that happened when you have a moment to do so.
- The exact location, time and date of the accident
- The direction you drove in
- Your location on the road, as well as what you were doing at impact.
- What the other vehicle was doing at the time.
9. Notify Your Car Insurance Company
You will find a number your car insurance company can call to report an accident. You can also contact your agent, who will ask you questions and report the incident to your insurance company.
No matter who was at fault, it is important that you notify your car insurance company immediately. Your policy requires any incident that may trigger coverage. If you fail to notify your insurance company on time, your coverage could be affected.
Not reporting an accident to your auto insurance company does not mean you have to file a claim. Talking with an agent or attorney can help you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of filing a claim. For example, how it might affect your car insurance premiums.
10. Cooperate with Your Car Insurance Company
Your car insurance company must investigate the accident, and you must cooperate. This means that you must answer all their questions and give them any evidence or information you have gathered after the accident.
This step comes with a caveat. You should contact an attorney if you feel that your car insurance company has wrongfully denied your claim or if you believe you have criminal responsibility for the accident. While you will likely still need to answer questions from your insurance company, your attorney can ensure that you don’t say anything that could lead to more problems down the road.
11. Keep a record
Keep records of all your medical appointments and vehicle repairs. Even if you do not plan to file a claim, it is possible. You will need to keep records to prove your damages if you ever file a lawsuit or claim.
It’s a good idea to keep a diary or journal of what happens during a complicated or lengthy car insurance claim process. It is important to keep track of the people you speak with and what they say. You should not delete emails that you exchange about your accident with others.
See this list of records you should have after a car accident for more information.
Step 12 – Don’t sign anything
It’s a smart idea to speak with the other driver’s insurance company if you’re involved in serious accidents that result in injuries or vehicle damage. Learn more about speaking (or not speaking) to another driver’s insurance company after a car crash incoming article.
After a car accident, it’s important to protect your rights while providing assistance to others.