It’s never a good time. You’ve just been in an automobile accident; you’re still shaken up and confused. You need to understand what to do before it happens, so you can be prepared when it happens. Keep this list clipped to your insurance card in your glove compartment. Keep calm and follow these five steps any time you are in an automobile accident.
1. First and most important stay calm. Next, is anyone hurt? Assess the situation and take care of the most important first. Are you or anyone involved injured in any way even a minor injury? Make sure no one is injured or call for medical assistance immediately. Even if you feel ok, get to a hospital and get checked out. You need to protect yourself in case something comes up later.
2. Don’t apologize it implies guilt. It is not your place or responsibility to assign blame or take blame. Talk to others involved in a calm, rational way, but don’t act as if it is your fault, even if you believe that it was.
3. Call the Police. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. You need a police report to file with your insurance company. Do not be talked into not calling the police by the other party. No matter what they say, if you fail to get a police report, you may be giving up any rights you have to recover damages to your vehicle, contents, or yourself.
4. Look for witnesses. If the case ends up going to court, having an eye witness that can verify your account may be the difference in winning.
5. Trade information with the other drivers. This should include driver’s license numbers, tag numbers, contact information, and insurance company. If anyone doesn’t have a driver’s license or insurance, don’t get confrontational. Wait for the police and let them handle it.
6. Write down exactly what happened. You can’t rely on your memory later to reconstruct the incident. Take some pictures. Got a cell phone? Get some pictures of the vehicles and the environment. If this ends up going to court, the person who is the best prepared usually wins the case. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle, the position of the vehicles, and any skid marks or other indications of what happened.
7. Contact your insurance company. You want to get the ball rolling on your claim as soon as possible. It may take a while to get an adjustor to take a look at your vehicle so don’t delay. Give the person taking the claim as much information as possible from your notes.
8. Call your attorney. You have to protect your rights no one else will. You need to make sure you are properly compensated for damages to your vehicle and injuries to yourself. You also need to protect yourself against any future claims from others involved.