What to do if you have a car accident
We've got tips for how to handle yourself after having an auto accident. Check for injuries, exchange information and call the police if necessary.
Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 11:57 AM
For most of us, it's not the if of getting into an auto accident, but the when.
Even if you are careful and aware of your surroundings, you can’t control the weather or other drivers. So what can you do if you find yourself in an accident? Be prepared.
Put together a kit
Your kit does not have to be elaborate, but there are some must-haves that you should never be without, like your driver’s license, registration, and insurance company information and member number. Mark Tagliaferro, assistant vice president of Coffey and Company, an insurance firm in Sparks, Md., says that there is a double benefit to carrying your insurance card.
“It always has an emergency phone number, and often has the number you can call for 24-hour towing,” he says. “This can be invaluable in an accident.”
Other items you should have are a cellphone to call 911 (preferably one with a camera to take photos of the accident and the damage), a pen and paper to exchange information and take your own notes, as well as a flashlight and flares for safety.
Evaluate yourself and others
Immediately after the accident, check on the health and safety of yourself, and those in your vehicle. From there, it is always a good idea to check on the other people involved in the accident.
“Dealing with the other person can be tricky,” says Tagliaferro. “Always ask about injuries first, and then go about exchanging information. Again, if you feel threatened or unsafe, call the police. Make note of any passengers in the other vehicle. If the circumstances of the accident are questionable, then do not accept fault.”
Alert the necessary professionals
If the accident is just a fender-bender, then you can pull off to a safe place, exchange insurance and identity information and go on with your day. Just remember, if you have any concerns about injury or a difference in opinion, call 911. It’s always better to call the authorities and not need them than to find out later you should have called and filed a report.
Keep your wits about you
After an accident, your first job is to make sure that you are out of the road if possible, and turn on your hazard lights. Accidents can be made worse when a third or fourth car is added by a vehicle or debris in the roadway. Take a deep breath and prioritize. There is no need to place a claim with the insurance company on the scene, as you can do that later from home.
Just the facts, ma’am
If the police arrive on the scene, be courteous and polite. Give the police all of your identifying information, and recount exactly what you saw and experienced. Wait until the officer gives you permission to leave the scene and make sure you have a copy of the police report if one is written. Do not sign anything with the exception of police paperwork.
Remember that the most important thing is that everyone is all right or not seriously hurt. After all, cars can be fixed and that’s one of the biggest benefits of automobile insurance.
Have other tips for what to do if you have a car accident? Leave us a note in the comments below.