There you are, out running errands or simply heading to work, when the unthinkable happens: a collision. What now?
If you are involved in a traffic accident, try to remain calm, and follow these steps for what to do after a car accident, according to insurance carriers.
1. Check For Injuries
Life and health are more important than any damage to vehicles. If someone seems hurt they should remain in the cars with seatbelts fastened until help arrives.
If the accident is minor and there are no serious injuries, move all cars to a safe place, rather than risk being stuck in traffic. Leaving cars parked in the middle of a busy intersection is only asking for trouble.
If the vehicles can’t be moved, turn on your hazard lights. If warranted, use cones, warning triangles, or flares for safety.
2. Call The Police
Call the police, even if the accident is minor. Although they may not respond directly unless there are injuries, make the call and let them determine the course of action. A police report often helps insurance companies speed up the claims process.
Make note of specific damages to all vehicles involved. Write down the names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance company, policy number, and licence numbers of persons involved in the accident.
To help you here, the Insurance Bureau of Canada has developed a handy accident report form. Keep a copy of it in your glove box so you won’t have to worry about remembering just what to write down.
3. Get All The Information
Don’t be dissuaded from getting everyone’s information, even if they’re older than you or feel that there’s really nothing to discuss. If the name on the registration and/or insurance policy is different from the name of the driver, for instance, establish the relationship and jot it down.
At the same time, make notes about the accident, including the specific damages to all vehicles involved. If you have a camera or cell phone handy, and it’s safe to do so, photograph the accident scene.If not, make a sketch of the accident scene noting the position and direction of all cars.
Jot down names and addresses of anyone who may have witnessed the accident. This can prevent disagreement concerning how the accident actually happened.
4. Call Your Agent
Notify your insurance agent about the accident immediately and follow his or her lead. Be sure not to sign any documents, unless they’re for the police or your insurance company.
Be polite, but don’t tell the other driver or the police that the accident was your fault, even if you think it might be. Likewise, don’t accuse the other driver of being at fault either.
Limit your discussion of the accident to your insurance agent and the police. Even if the facts are embarrassing or detrimental to you, be truthful – it’s all going to come out in the end.
5. Don’t Take The Cash
To avoid seeing their insurance rates jump, some drivers prefer to skip all this, choosing not to report accidents to their insurance company and instead opting to pay for any damage out of their own pocket.
While settling things off the books can be very tempting, things can really backfire.
That’s what happened to one misfortunate driver. After paying about $900 to settle a seemingly minor rush hour accident, he later found out that the other driver decided to go through his own insurance company after the fact.
His insurance company was subsequently notified and the accident ended up counting against his insurance record anyway, boosting his premiums at the same time.