What To Do After a Car Accident
Things can be chaotic immediately after a crash, but following some basic steps can make filing your claim a little easier:
- First and foremost: Think about your safety and those around you before thinking about your insurance. If someone is injured, call 911.
- Stay calm. Being in a car accident is scary but getting upset will make things worse.
- There's no need to call the police if you only have a dinged bumper or a scratched door.
Before an Accident
Being prepared can prevent stress after an accident. Keep a copy of your insurance information and a pen and paper in your car; it will make the post-accident process much easier. Many mobile phones come equipped with a camera, but if your phone doesn't have one or it takes low-quality photos, it's a good idea to keep a disposable camera in your car as well. You are required by law to have proof of your insurance with you, and insurers provide cards that have all your insurance information on them. Print your insurance information out if you have recently started a new policy and don't have an insurance card yet.
Get Off the Road
After a crash, it's important to get to safety as quickly as possible.
Before you start gathering information from the other driver after a crash, it's important to get to safety as quickly as possible. If you had a minor fender bender, you don't have to leave the cars where they are. The police will not come to file a report on a minor accident; however, they will come to tell you to move your vehicle. Move out of the way of oncoming traffic to keep you and the other drivers safe. But if you can't move your car without causing further damage, don't try. Your insurance company should be able to hire a tow truck to move it for you.
Watch What You Say
After an accident, you should speak to the other driver only to get his or her information and to make sure the driver is OK. Don't admit fault or say "I'm sorry" during your conversation as it could be used against you in court.
Your insurance company will need certain information to file your claim. Some insurance providers offer forms that can keep you organized while gathering information. You may need to fill out information on the other drivers involved, the name of your insurance representative and whether there is damage on your car.
If you're in a crash, write down the following information of the people involved:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Make, model and year of the car
- License plate number
- Insurance carrier
- Insurance policy number
Take these photos, if you can:
- Damage to your vehicle
- Accident location
- People involved with the accident
Get information from the officer if one is on the scene:
- Badge or ID number
- Phone number
- Police report number
Ask the police officer for a copy of the police report. The officer's opinion of the accident will be useful if the drivers have a dispute during claims processing. The police report will also have the officer's information on it just in case the officer is needed to testify.
Note: The other driver or the police will not need your Social Security number; don't give it to them.
File Your Claim
Call your insurance company to start your claim; your insurance company's phone number is most likely staffed 24/7. You may also be able to check on your claim process by going to your insurance company's website. You will likely be contacted by your claims representative within 24 hours to discuss the details of your claim.
After an accident that you're responsible for, you'll likely have to pay surcharges, which are the premium increases you will have to pay for a few years. They vary in amount from insurer to insurer, but most range from 20 percent to 40 percent of your base rate (the average cost of insurance in your state). If you pay $200 a month on auto insurance and your state's base rate is $500, you would have to pay $100 in surcharges with a 20 percent increase. The length of surcharges varies from state to state, but they often drop after three years.
If you fit a certain profile, some insurers won't raise your premiums if you had an accident. In most cases, you will have to be a customer with an insurance company for about nine years and never had an accident to have your rates stay the same after an accident.