A few years ago, I was driving from one office building to another when a Dodge Durango ran a red light and totaled my car. I was fine, as the Durango hit me at a forty-five degree angle, but my car was destroyed. The passenger door was dented in, the front quarter-panel was crushed, the frame was bent, and the wheel was crooked on the axle. If that wasn’t enough, both airbags deployed – my Acura Integra was kaput. I was fortunate in that accident because I wasn’t at fault, the other driver was calm, a witness stopped, and the police handled the situation expeditiously. The end result was that I got a check and needed a new car, but the process as quick as could be expected.
There was one good thing about that experience, it taught me how to properly respond in the event of an accident. Accidents are very scary and it’s very easy to lose your calm. They are exactly like those “controversial” Volkswagon “Safe Happens” commercials (I embedded two at the end of this article, they are very shocking). One minute you’re minding your own business, the next you’re being violently interrupted.
Here’s what I do immediately following an accident, I’ve written little notes down to myself on a piece of paper in my wallet to remind me. (In fact, I got the idea from Geico, which writes a sub-set of these instructions on what you should do immediately following an accident)
Never Admit Fault
No matter what happens, don’t ever admit you were at fault in the accident. This isn’t so that you can get away with something that you did but it’s to protect you in the event your memory of events or your understanding of who is at fault is wrong. When my car was totaled after the other driver ran a red light, I was a little dazed and unsure what had happened. I was turning and had a dedicated turn arrow but at the time I wondered if I only had a regular green and should’ve yielded. The police and the insurance companies can sort that stuff out and they know all the laws.
Don’t Get Out
If your car is smoking or on fire, get out immediately. If everything seems to be fine, just sit for a minute and collect your thoughts. You may have gotten a concussion or hurt something in your body, you don’t want to be moving around too much unless it’s absolutely necessary. Take this time to collect your thoughts, try to figure out what happened, and look at the other driver. If the other person looks furious, unbalanced, whatever… lock your doors, call the police immediately. It’s not uncommon for someone to be upset and have that anger turn into blows.
Call The Police
If it’s more than a little bump and superficial scratches, call the police. If you need emergency assistance, such as a tow, call the police before you call a tow. If the accident is severe, you’ll want the police to write a record and issue a ticket. The ticket is an indication of who the police find at fault, having one of those makes it much easier to deal with insurance companies. Police can also diffuse hot tempers. If the other person looks like they’re going to do something, you’ll want the police there.
Get Driver’s License & Insurance Info
When you collect the other driver’s information, copy down everything from his or her driver’s license. You’ll want everything from the state it’s issued to their address to the ID number. There is no such thing as having too much information. Also remember to get their phone number as well, confirm if you must (call them). Get all of their insurance information as well, essentially carbon copying the data on their card (ask for a card, not just for them to recite it). Also get the make, model, and license plate of their car. If you have any problems, call the police if they aren’t there already.
Call Your Insurance Company
If you have comprehensive and collision insurance, which is insurance for your own vehicle in an accident, call your insurance company and let them know what happened. They are responsible for paying for the repairs on your car if the other driver is found to be not at fault, which means they will work hard at proving the other driver is at fault (if they are). This ultimately means less work for you, so take advantage of it (you are paying them for this anyway!).
Don’t File A False Claim
Whenever insurance is involved, there’s always the opportunity for fraud. You may be tempted to file a damage claim for something that happened a few months ago, please don’t. Fraud is a serious crime, don’t throw your future away for a few dollars in repairs in the present.
The two commercials I promised are after the jump.
(Photo: andyfitz )