Stay calm (and other steps to take
following an auto accident).
Justin Lin’s first auto accident was, fortunately, a minor one. While waiting in line to leave the high school parking lot, Lin inched forward just a bit too far–and bumped the car in front of him. He motioned the other driver to the side of the parking lot, where they examined both cars for damage (they didn’t see any) and exchanged phone numbers. Then Lin handed his insurance card to the other driver, and she drove away with it. “I had no idea what to do,” says Lin, who was 16 at the time. “I just did what I’d heard other people say to do.”
Lin’s inexperience may have caused him to skip a few steps in the post-accident protocol recommended by many insurers. But even veteran drivers can get frazzled and forget to record crucial information. Here’s a quick guide on what to do after a collision.
1. Assess the situation
Before you do anything else, take a deep breath. Then ask yourself these questions.
First: Are you injured? If you or anyone else is hurt, call 911 immediately.
Second: Is your car operable? If so, drive to the side of the road or to a safe place so that you don’t block traffic and cause another accident. If your car is so badly damaged that it can’t be moved, turn on your emergency flashers and stay in the car until help arrives.
Third: Call the police, especially if there’s been an injury. If there are no injuries, the parties involved can agree to just exchange information and leave the scene.
2. Gather information
Once you get to a safe place, and if you feel comfortable doing so, start exchanging information. Get the names, driver’s license numbers, addresses, and phone numbers of any drivers involved. Record the color, make, model, year, license plate number, and registered owner for each vehicle, and get the names and phone numbers of any passengers or witnesses. Then, get the names and policy numbers of the drivers’ insurance companies. If it is more convenient, take photos on your phone capturing all the necessary information. Lastly, give the same information about yourself to other drivers.
Next, gather information about the accident scene. Sketch out the positions of the vehicles at the time of the accident. Note the location, time, and weather and road conditions. Use your cell phone to photograph the scene and the cars involved, even if there’s no apparent damage.
If the police come to the scene, write down the officers’ names, badge numbers, and jurisdiction, and ask them how your insurance company can get a copy of the police report, if one is filed.
3. Call your insurance company
Determining fault is best left to an insurance professional, so don’t admit fault and call your insurance company as soon as possible, even from the accident scene. When you get home, write a detailed account of the collision and download the photos you took. This information will be useful during the insurance claims process and could help if you end up involved in a court case.
Your insurance agent can provide more details. Stop in at your local branch, call 1-888-428-8625, or go to AAA.com/insurance. Members insured through AAA receive the added benefit of AAA Accident Assist, a program that guides them through the process of reporting a claim after a crash. Accident Assist also is included in the AAA Insurance app, available free from Google Play and the iTunes App Store.
|Jul/Aug 2013 Issue
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