Any time you are involved in an accident, there are a number of things you need to do to ensure you are both compensated fairly as well as protecting yourself. Here is a handy checklist you might want to keep on hand in case you are ever involved in an accident.
1. Make sure everyone is safe/ unharmed
Depending on the severity of the accident, you may or may not be able to immediately determine what injuries may or may not have been sustained. In some cases, drivers and passengers appear to be unharmed only to develop later complications. When in doubt, it is always best to be checked out as quickly as possible. In addition to caring for your own health, the longer you wait to get medical attention, the more likely those injuries can be chalked up to something else other than the accident.
2. Exchange insurance information and/ or call police if necessary
The next thing you do is going to be dependent on how serious the accident is and whether or not the other driver is insured – particularly if you feel they are the driver at fault. If it is a serious accident involving any kind of injury, you will definitely want to call the police, but you will also want to call them if it is a minor accident but the other driver is uninsured. Of course, this is also dependent on whether or not you live in a “no-fault” state. In a no-fault state, each driver is covered by their own insurance regardless of who is at fault in the accident, so it doesn’t really matter if the other driver is covered or not. Their insurance will not be taking care of you anyway.
3. Get a copy of police report, other driver’s information and contact information for any witnesses
While the police are filling out their report, you will want to try and get contact information from any witnesses – particularly if the other driver is at fault. While the police will get contact information from the other driver, you will want to try and get this information at the scene as well. Make sure you have the officer’s name and contact information and information on how to get a copy of the police report if you don’t get it at the scene.
4. Take pictures
You will want to make sure and document the accident well. This includes taking pictures of any damage or injuries as well as any evidence of the accident such as skid marks. If the accident was a result of someone not being able to see something, such as a stop sign being hidden by a tree limb, take a picture of that as well. Make sure and take pictures of damage to both cars as well as any damage to any property that may have been caused by the accident. This is particularly important for small fender benders, especially if you are not calling the police. In many cases, the other driver may try to claim damages that did not actually occur in the accident. Remember, the insurance adjusters are not there at the accident, so you need to throughly document the incident to protect yourself.
5. Call your insurance company
Even if the other driver is at fault, you will still want to notify your own insurance company of the accident. In some cases, the other driver may turn out to be underinsured or uninsured. If the accident is serious enough to call the police, you may find this out at the scene of the accident or they may tell you up front that they don’t have insurance. In other cases, they may produce an insurance card that may turn out to be fake, fraudulent or lapsed. For instance, they may claim to be on someone else’s policy when in fact they are not. Calling your insurance company immediately will often gain you an immediate and powerful ally in getting reimbursed for your claim.