What to Do After a Car Accident: 7 Steps to Take
Here is a quick guide to help you after you’ve been in an accident including how to file an insurance claim.
It’s an unfortunate reality that despite our best efforts to be safe on the road, accidents happen. The first thing you want to do is try and remain calm.
The steps you need to take after an accident are very straightforward but things can become difficult if you let your emotions take control.
Sure, you might be angry at the other driver. But this is the time to keep your cool and gather the necessary information for filing your claim.
Step 1: Check for Injuries
Check yourself and your passengers for injuries, as well as the other driver. If anyone involved needs emergency care dial 911 immediately.
Even if there are no injuries it might be a good idea to call the police.
They can take a thorough report that you can submit to your insurance carrier. This can become very useful if the other driver tries to argue who was at fault or how much damage actually occurred.
Once you know everyone is ok just follow this guide and you’ll be back on the road in no time.
Step 2: If Possible, Move Your Vehicle to a Safe Location
The last thing anyone needs after an accident is another accident being caused from vehicles left in the roadway.
If you can move your vehicle to a safe location do so as soon as possible.
This will give you the safe space needed to exchange information with the other driver without being a hazard to others and yourself.
If the accident is more than just a fender bender you’ll want to use your roadside emergency kit. These usually have flares and/or reflective triangles that you can put out to notify oncoming vehicles of the hazard created from your accident.
Step 3: Exchange Information with the Other Driver
What information you’re required to exchange can vary from state to state but you’ll need to at least exchange full legal names and insurance carrier information.
IMPORTANT: Do not get into arguing who was at fault at the scene. Leave that to the insurance companies. This is why it is a good idea to call the police and let an impartial third-party document the scene.
Here is the information you’ll want:
- Name and Insurance Information of the Other Driver
- Their phone number if they are willing to give it to you
- If there are witnesses, try and get their contact information
- Take photos of any damage as well as the location of vehicles and surrounding area
- Police report and officer’s name and contact information. They carry cards and will gladly hand you one
- Take any notes of the incident. This will help you when you are reporting to you insurance carrier
Step 4: Determining What Insurance Coverage Will Apply
How the claims process turns out for you will be determined by who was at fault and what coverages you and the other driver have.
Let’s assume that the other driver was at fault. The process will go like this:
You and your passenger’s expenses
The other driver’s property damage liability coverage will pay for the damages to your vehicle up to their policy limits of coverage.
If you are injured and need medical care the other driver’s bodily injury liability coverage will pay for those expenses up to the policy limits of coverage.
12 states are no-fault which means that if you’re in an accident your own personal injury protection will need to cover any bodily injury you incur.
If the other driver didn’t have insurance, or didn’t have enough coverage to pay your bills, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverages would pay out.
Uninsured motorist coverage is required in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and some of those states also require underinsured motorist coverage.
The other driver’s expenses
Collision coverage will pay for repairs up to their vehicle’s actual cash value, minus a deductible.
Generally, this coverage is optional, unless you’re financing or leasing. If you have a vehicle under 10 years old we always recommend carrier comprehensive and collision on your policy.
If the other driver was injured in the accident their own medical coverage will kick in up to their limits and then their own health insurance should cover the rest.
Additional Coverages that Can Help Either Driver
This comes in handy if you need a tow to the repair-shop you’ll be able to use your emergency roadside service.
Many drivers are members of AAA which provides such services; however, it’s often cheaper to get emergency roadside service from your auto insurer.
The downside is that using it will count as a claim, and claims can cause your rates to go up.
If you need a rental, rental car reimbursement coverage pays for a rental while yours is in the shop.
Be aware that you’ll probably need collision and comprehensive coverage in order to add rental car reimbursement and emergency roadside service.
Step 5: Decide Whether or Not to File a Claim
If you’re at fault in an accident and it looks like just minor damage, you might be tempted to offer to just pay cash to the other driver for the repairs. However, what appears minor may end up costing you more in the long run than had you just filed a claim.
Even if the other driver was at fault you might still need to use your own insurance up front and the process is like this:
- File a claim with your insurance company and be prepared to pay a deductible. Your insurer will communicate with the other driver’s insurance company and refund your deductible if needed.
- If you live in a no-fault state, your own PIP coverage pays for injuries to yourself and anyone in the car with you. (You’d still have the right to sue for serious injuries later.)
- The other driver’s insurance company will investigate whether its client was at fault. After that, either you’ll be asked to get a repair estimate or an adjuster will assess the damage.
- The company may cover medical costs unless you live in a no-fault state. But in both cases you’ll be reimbursed only up to the at-fault driver’s liability limits.
- If that’s not enough to pay all the bills, you could turn to your own collision coverage, if you have it, or your own underinsured motorist coverage, which is not required in every state. Deductibles likely apply for both.
Step 6: Look for Lower Car Insurance Rates
If you are in an accident, more likely than not, your premiums will increase.
Some companies offer accident forgiveness, which means they won’t increase your premiums after your first at-fault accident.
However, MOST COMPANIES WILL INCREASE YOUR PREMIUMS. Depending on the severity of the accident you may even double your premium.
Some companies have been shown to raise premiums as much as 10% even when the accident was not your fault.
This is why you should compare carriers and their rates at least once a year if not every six months.
Step 7: Protect Yourself from the Cost of Your Deductible
If you have comprehensive and collision on your policy you carry a deductible from anywhere between $250 and $2,000.
You can now add a supplemental program to cover your deductible expenses in the event of an accident and if you compare the cost of the program to the savings of not paying thousands up front it often times pays for itself.
You can learn more about the Deductible Relief Program by CLICKING HERE.