What to Do After a Car Accident
Even cautious drivers sometimes experience accidents. What should you do right away after one? Try to keep your cool. Although the post-accident procedure is very simple, it isn’t always simple.
You’ll be able to precisely and completely record the wreck if you maintain your composure. Following these instructions can reduce the stress after a mishap and speed up the claims processing.
Move to a safe spot after looking for any injuries.
Check to see whether anyone is hurt right away. If so, dial 911 to summon an ambulance and the police. In some places, calling the police is necessary, regardless of how minor the incident was or how cooperative the other motorist was. Additionally, you’ll have a formal report to present to your insurance provider, which it will probably request.
Get the involved vehicles to the shoulder or off the main road and put on the danger lights if they are still moving. To avoid getting struck by oncoming vehicles, make sure to pull off the road totally.
Set up any flares or reflective emergency triangles to alert other motorists. Get everyone out of the car and to a secure location away from the road if there seems to be an explosion threat.
In most cases, all the other drivers need your name and insurance information.
While you might want to discuss the specifics of the collision with the other motorist, it’s better to keep your communication to a minimum, so you don’t confess fault, place responsibility on the other party, or reveal your insurance policy’s coverage limits.
The information you should try to collect includes:
- Name and insurance information of the other driver, including the policy and insurer’s phone numbers.
- If they are willing to provide the other driver’s telephone number.
- Witness contact information.
- Police report number and a copy of the police report if possible.
- Police officer’s name and badge number.
Document the crash
You’ll want to document the scene of the accident diligently. Here’s a list of everything you should capture:
- Photos of all damage, including any to the other driver’s car.
- Photo of the other driver’s license plate.
- Date and time of the accident.
- Personal notes on what happened, including your driving speed and road conditions. If you can, draw a diagram of the scene and how the accident occurred, including the direction each vehicle was traveling.
Some insurance companies, including Geico and Allstate, offer free smartphone apps to help you document the details of a crash.
Decide whether to file a claim.
You are not compelled to claim if you caused the accident. But keep in mind that even a seemingly minor mishap could end up costing more than you anticipated.
You must submit a claim to the at-fault driver’s insurance provider if you weren’t at fault for the collision. Call your insurance company first; they might submit the claim to the driver’s insurance company on your behalf.
Even if another driver was at fault for a collision, you might still need to utilize your own insurance. If so, submit a claim to your insurance provider and be ready to cover the deductible. Your insurance provider will speak with the other driver’s insurance provider and, if necessary, reimburse your deductible.
How insurance pays out after an accident
How the insurance claims process shakes out after a car accident depends on who was at fault and the types of coverage you and the other driver have.
If another driver is at fault
Assuming you are not a passenger in their car, the at-fault driver’s auto insurance will pay for:
- Damage to your car, up to the other driver’s property damage liability limits.
- Your medical bills are up to the limits of their bodily injury liability coverage, which, in most states, is necessary to be able to drive. Certain states are referred to as “no-fault” states. If you reside in one of the regions, the personal injury protection of your own policy will pay for your medical bills.
If you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage under your own insurance policy, it would kick in if the other driver didn’t have insurance or didn’t have enough insurance to cover all of your expenses.
If you’re at fault
Depending on your policy, your own insurance will cover:
- Injuries to the other driver and any passengers in their car, up to the bodily injury coverage limits of your insurance, but this coverage does not apply to injuries to your own passengers. The other driver’s no-fault insurance (if they have it) might reimburse their medical costs if the collision happened in a no-fault state.
- Damage to the other driver’s car, up to the limits of your property damage liability coverage.
- Damage to your own car if you have collision and comprehensive coverage. After you’ve paid your deductible, your car will be covered up to its current market value.
- Your medical expenses that result from the crash are up to the limits of your medical payments or PIP coverage. After that, you’ll need to work with individual health insurance for any other medical expenses you and your passengers incur.
Your insurance might also pay for a rental car for the other driver if their vehicle needs to be in the shop.
Optional coverage that can help either driver
Here are some optional coverage types that may be useful after an accident if your policy includes them:
- If you require a tow to the repair shop, emergency roadside help will be useful.
- Whether you were at fault or not, the rental car reimbursement coverage pays for a rented car while your automobile is being fixed.