Although all 50 of our states have laws on their books requiring drivers to carry a bare minimum of liability auto insurance, lots of people ignore those laws, most often because they claim they can’t afford the coverage. This does not bode well for you if you’re hit by one of these insolvent scoff laws. Chances are, you’re going to take a financial hit, too. But give yourself a fighting chance at recovering something by following these six steps.
- Call the cops. Even if the person who hit you begs you not to or offers to pay you cash on the spot. If your case has to go to court or there’s any dispute with your auto insurance company, you will have an official police report on your side. Besides, the law and/or your insurance company probably require you to call the police if there was any bodily injury involved, if the accident is blocking traffic, or if a third-party or property was damaged. Let the police decide whether or not their presence is warranted. As to taking an on-the-fly cash settlement, don’t. Unless you’re a professional auto accident appraiser, you have no way of knowing the extend of the damages or the cost to repair them.
- Next, collect as much information as you can about the other driver. Ask to see his driver’s license and registration. Both of you are legally required to exchange that information (and insurance information, too, if you have it). Be aware that this person could be giving you bogus info, so be sure to jot down the car’s license number, make, model and vehicle identification number (VIN). All of that is on the vehicle registration.
- Buttonhole any witnesses and get their contact information.
- While you’re waiting for the cops to arrive, whip out your digital camera or cell phone and take pictures of the accident. Lots of them. You’ll want close ups and wide shots of your vehicle and the other driver’s, as well as some shots of the accident scene. Take a few snaps of the uninsured driver while you’re at it.
- The cops still aren’t there. Use your wait time to make some notes about the weather conditions, time of day and anything you remember about the accident while it’s all fresh in your mind.
Remain calm and polite. Do not engage in a shouting match about blame. If the other driver becomes abusive or belligerent, get into your car, lock the doors and wait for the police. Of course, if you feel seriously threatened, get the heck out of there.