Just about everyone will be involved in a car accident at some point in their lives. With more and more people texting and driving, the chances of having to face this moment rises. It will be a time of panic and confusion for many. So if you are involved in an accident what should you do?
Many people are carrying expired ID cards. Everyone should be sure that they have their current registration and insurance identification card in the glove box. This will be required in a routine traffic stop, but even more important if you are involved in an accident.
With an estimated 30% of people on the road driving without insurance, it’s important to get as much information as possible at the scene of an accident. Many of you will know about something called uninsured motorists coverage. This a special coverage that may apply if you are involved in an accident with someone who is uninsured (as the name implies), under-insured (meaning they do not carry enough coverage to pay for your damages) or in a hit and run. What a lot of people don’t know is that many states require that the other driver be identified in order for this coverage to be available. So now you can see why it's so important to get information on the other person involved.
First of all, if you are involved in an accident call the police. This is an important step in documenting what happened and helping to establish fault. If the other person involved doesn't want you to call - do it anyway. Quite often, in questionable accidents it's difficult to establish fault and a police report helps to do just that.
Many states allow something called comparative negligence. In these states, fault is divided among parties involved and your damage recovery is limited to that percentage. So for example, if you are found to be 30% at fault for say failing to maintain proper lookout, you could only recover 70% of the costs to repair your vehicle. Sometimes, the police will not come to the scene of an accident unless there are injuries or more serious damages. They just don't have the resources to respond to every call. But it doesn't hurt to try.
The next step, assuming there are no injuries, is to gather information. I recommend printing out this list and keeping it in the glove box with your ID card so that in the heat of the moment you don't forget anything.
Collect the following at an accident scene.
It's also a good idea to ask if they are the owner, and if not, collect as much of this information about the owner as you can. If you are involved in an accident with a teen in a parents car, they may not be listed on the ID card. If it's a commercial vehicle involved, like a work truck, be sure to get the name of the company who owns the vehicle and the company's phone number.
It's scary to think, but there are a lot of drivers on the road who will give false information to try to keep the accident a secret. A young driver may fear getting in trouble with his parents, or may have taken the car without permission. A worker in a company van may fear losing his job if the accident is reported. Most of us tremble in fear wondering if our insurance rates will go up for an accident.
I would also recommended getting a couple of photographs. You probably have a smart phone so there is no excuse not to. It would be best to get photographs of all of the information in the above checklist as well. That way you do not have to rely on your handwriting under pressure to be legible later, or losing the piece of paper you wrote it all on. By having all of this information for your insurance company, if by some chance the other guy denied being at the scene you could prove he was.
The final step is to report the accident to your insurance company. It's not necessary to report it at the scene. Do it at a time that makes sense: when you have calmed down enough to talk, and when there are no highway noises to make it difficult for you insurance representative to understand or hear what you are saying.