Around 6 million car accidents occur each year in the United States. Should you find yourself in a fender bender, or a more serious accident, a sense of calm and preparedness is paramount. Don't let yourself be caught unprepared in an already stressful situation. Here are the things you need to...
Here are 6 stress-saving (and money-saving) tips for when you get in a car crash
No one is immune from the risks and realities of car accidents. If you are not prepared, you will be caught off guard even in a very minor car accident. Being prepared may save your life or the life of someone else. Being prepared can also potentially save you thousands of dollars. Consider these action steps in advance and if you're ever in an accident, you will be prepared, safe and hopefully leave no holes in an insurance claim that follows every accident.
- Be Prepared for the worst
None of us expects a wreck, but a little preparation can reduce the stress and anxiety that naturally follow from every car accident.
Carry emergency supplies. Items like a first aid kit and contact information for your emergency contacts should always be carried with you in your car. Hopefully, you will never need them, but if you do you will be glad you planned ahead.
Have critically important documents accessible in your car. State law requires drivers to have their driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance available in their car. Keep all of these items in a safe secure place in your car and review them periodically to make sure they are up to date.
Make sure you're covered. You don't want to find out after an accident that your insurance policy was canceled or expired. Don't take insurance coverage for granted. In California, you may be denied recovery you're your damages in an accident caused by someone else if you don't have your own car insurance.
- Seek medical attention and move off the road
Stop and make sure no one in your vehicle is injured. If someone is injured or might be injured, immediately call 911 for emergency medical aid. Avoid moving anyone who might be injured to prevent further injury unless they're in immediate danger. Let first responders do their job to protect you and your passengers from further harm.
However, if no one is hurt, and you car can be moved, you should move your car completely off the road to prevent being a danger to others. Move your vehicle as far away from the flow of traffic as possible.
- Call the police
Injured or not, getting a police report is one of the smartest things you can do after an accident. Not only is it required by law if there is substantial property damage or injuries, a police response followed by an unbiased report filed right away will provide the most reliable 3rd party account of what happened. Remember, a timely investigation and police report will be critical not only for an the insurance claim you are about to file, but also critically important if you decide to file a lawsuit to pursue full recovery for your claim. Lastly, don't expect a copy of the police report to be sent to you automatically. You will likely have to request a copy of the report directly from the reporting agency unless you have an attorney doing that for you.
- Document all the evidence at the scene of the accident
Gathering information and evidence at the scene of the accident can make all the difference in your insurance claim or lawsuit. Don't rely on the traffic cop to document your accident scene and of course keep copies of everything. You will want to have all of the following if possible:
- Photos of damage to all vehicles;
- Your firsthand notes about what happened;
- Firsthand notes from your passengers about what happened;
- Other driver's name, telephone number and insurance information;
- Witness contact information;
- Copy of the police report, or the officer's name and police report number.
Don't forget to gather the other person's insurance information. Getting that information immediately will help you file your claim quickly and efficiently. Immediately after a crash happens, you will be under stress and it might be difficult to remember everything you need to do. Think about using an app like “Accident Reporter” (Accident Reporter | Pixel Diamond Games), “Openroad: Help in a Car Crash (Openroad: Help in a Car Crash on the App Store (apple.com)). These are tools that can walk you through what to document for an insurance claim step by step even while under stress.
- Don't admit guilt or overshare
Many people's first instinct will be to apologize. But this instinct may seems like admissions of guilt or acceptance of responsibility that are misplaced. If you are able, check whether the other person is injured and gather their relevant information, but avoid any further interaction than that.
- Contact your insurance company
Lastly, contacting your insurance company and reporting the accident is generally better than making an agreement to not report the incident. Don't agree to “not report” because you feel sorry for the other driver. During the moments after an accident, you may not yet realize the full extent of your injuries or theirs.
You don't need to submit a claim just because you've reported an accident. You can report a crash and pay out of pocket if you decide a small claim isn't worth the hassle.