Have you ever been in a car accident?
Most of have. But, many of us don’t know what to do when we are in an accident? Do you? I know that most of us know to dial 911. And not to leave the scene of the accident. But, do you know what your insurance company will need once you call the 800 number on the back of your insurance card?
Having an accident can be a very stressful time. The first few minutes after you have the accident can be critical in gathering some valuable information about your accident that will help your insurance claim go smoothly.
The first thing that you want to do is make sure that everyone in your vehicle is okay.
Once you exit the vehicle, it would be helpful if you could take pictures of the vehicles and their location. If there is a dispute later as to how the accident occurred, images of the location of the vehicles may help to validate your version of the accident.
The next things that you should write down:
- The name of the intersection (example: at the corner of Main and Bradford)
- The time of the accident
- How many vehicles were involved?
- The weather conditions
- Any construction in the area
- If there are witnesses, ask them for their names and phone numbers. Record these clearly
- Get the name of the driver(s) of the other vehicle(s).
- The tag number(s)
- The color(s) of the vehicle(s)
- How many people were in the vehicle?
- Did anyone leave the scene?
- Is there a light or a stop sign at the intersection? (Who had the right of away?)
- Were there injuries to anyone in the other vehicle(s)?
- What type of vehicle(s) was/were the other person(s) driving?
- Write down any landmark(s) at the scene of the accident.
- Was the other vehicle disabled?
- If you can, get the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the other vehicle(s).
- If the driver is not the owner, get the name and number of the owner of the other vehicle(s).
- Get the other person’s insurance information.
When you are in an accident, most of us want to commiserate about the situation. When you are speaking to the other driver, limit your discussion about the accident. The insurance companies will sort out the details. Regardless of your perception of fault say NOTHING to the other drive except your name, insurance company and phone number!!!
DO NOT USE THE FOLLOWING WORDS at the scene of the accident
- I am sorry.
- I am at fault.
- I wish that this had not happened.
- I was not paying attention.
- I just looked away for a second.
- The sun was in my eyes.
- I was talking on the phone.
- I was handing my child ……..
- My mind was on…
- I was just texting…….
Even if you were a 100% NOT at fault for the accident, the other company will try to blame you for a portion of the accident if it is reported that you said any of those or similar things.
How Should You Behave at the Scene?
First of all, accidents happen all the time. Don’t get combative at the scene. There is no need to yell, scream or use derogatory language. Don’t threaten the other person. Make sure that you remain calm and in charge of the situation.
What if the Other Person is Combative?
If the other person is combative, walk away, but don’t leave the scene. Stand next to your vehicle. Ask the person to stand next to his/her vehicle until the police come.
It does not make you automatically at fault for the accident but an insurance company could argue that due to your being under the influence your reaction or judgment was impaired. And they could say that you contributed to the accident. Volunteer NO information re: alcohol or drugs!
Am I at fault if I rear end someone who pulled in front of me?
Rear-end accident claims are horrible. Unless you have witnesses, chances are that you are going to be blamed for the accident. So if you rear end someone and you feel that you are not at fault, take pictures of the point of impact and gather as many witnesses as you can. You will need them.
I heard that if I am injured, I will get millions. Is this true?
If you have an accident, don’t quit your day job thinking that you just hit the jackpot. Chances are you did not. Attorneys will tell you that they can get you three times your medical bills if you are injured. The truth is: Especially for a minor injury, that is NOT going to happen. And if you are in a minor accident and you run up thousands of dollars in medical bills, there is a chance that all your bills will not be paid. I will offer you an example:
Example one: You are rear-ended. There is $300.00 in damages on your car. You travel to the hospital via ambulance. And then you continue to go to your local chiropractor for six to eight weeks. Your hospital bill is $700.00. Your chiro bill is $3,500.00. When an insurance company looks at your medical records, the damage to the vehicle and your treatments, you might find they offer you less than the $4,200.00 that you have in medical bills.
If I get an attorney, will I get more money?
The truth is that you will not get more money. The value of your loss is the same—whether you have an attorney or not. Most minor claims you can negotiate yourself without the 33% attorney fees.
I have been paying premiums for 30 years. Don’t I deserve some of that back?
I will agree with you that insurance is expensive but running up bills does not vindicate high insurance premiums. And unless the person is uninsured, you are being compensated (made whole) because of someone else’s paid premiums not your own.
Are insurance companies out to “low ball” my claim?
Insurance companies are looking to pay what they owe you to make you whole again. They are not looking to low ball you. In fact, low balling you could cause them to be fined.
My Car was totaled . How can I determine what my car is worth?
I love my car too and, to me, it is worth a million dollars! But, the truth is: We always think our cars are worth more than they are. If your car is totaled, the claim representative will have to do a total loss evaluation. Ask for the report. It will help you understand how the insurance representative came up with the magic number.
Having a car accident can be stressful. I hope these few tips help to make the process a little easier. Please note: Accident laws vary by states. So if your process goes a little differently, your claims representative is following the insurance rules and regulations for the state in which you had the accident.
Contact your insurance company to see if they have a pamphlet that you can put in your car to use in the event of an accident. If you have all the information you need when you are reporting a loss, it will greatly help you.