Screech. Crash. Ouch. First Steps After an Auto Accident.
Actually, that title is a little misleading. Your best first step should happen before you’re ever in an accident. Get out your car insurance policy and read it. The section titled Conditions should spell out fairly clearly what you’re to do immediately after a car wreck – regardless of who was at fault. Yes, you should carry your auto policy in your car, but you’re probably not going to want to bother with fine print after a crash. Need more incentive to do some proactive reading? Consider that any misstep on your part might have a negative impact on your rights and on those affordable car insurance premiums and safe driver discounts you’ve worked so hard to find.
While you’re planning for being prepared for an auto accident, be sure your car is equipped with these basic tools: a cell phone, a disposable camera (unless your cell phone has this feature), pencils and scratch pad, a list of your personal emergency contacts, local police, highway patrol and a list of any medical conditions and allergies for you and each family member.
Immediately after the accident, make sure nobody is seriously hurt. If this was a minor accident with no apparent serious injuries, you may consider to move your car out of traffic. If you can’t move the car, turn on your emergency blinkers and move yourself and your passengers safely out of traffic. Call the police. Some cash- and resource-strapped municipalities now ask that you forgo this step for minor accidents. Call anyway and let the dispatcher make the determination. That way, there’ll be some record that you attempted to comply with your car accident insurance policy requirements. Exchange names, addresses, driver’s license numbers and insurance information with the other driver. Take pictures of the location and both vehicles. Lots of them.
If the police are coming, wait. Otherwise, move on or call a tow truck. As soon as possible, report the accident to your insurance company. As tempting as it may be (especially if the other driver offered to pay cash for your damages) don’t pass on this step. This is why you pay for auto insurance accident coverage and now is the time to use it. Worried that this step will cause your affordable auto insurance rates to go up? Most states have laws that keep car insurance companies from raising auto insurance rates if an accident was not your fault. Check your state’s DMV or insurance commission’s website for details. Besides, even if you live in a no-fault car insurance state, you can still be liable for the other driver’s medical bills. You want your auto insurance company (and their highly paid lawyers) on your side.