What You Need to Know Before a Car Accident
We all assume that today isn’t the day we’ll get into a car accident, but unfortunately that’s just not how these things work.
Vehicle collisions tend to happen out of the blue and can leave those involved feeling shocked and unsure of what to do.
But if you prepare for an accident ahead of time, it can help mitigate some of the chaos that takes place when you’re involved in a crash.
Here’s a series of important things you should know in advance so you’ll be ready for anything.
You Should Have Documentation Ready
There are some documents that should always be kept on your person or in your vehicle because you need to be able to present them if you get pulled over or if you’re involved in a collision.
Your license is one of them and should always be with you when you’re behind the wheel. It’s best to keep it in a purse or wallet so it stays with you wherever you go.
Your vehicle registration is another must-have document. When you register your car at your local motor vehicle agency, put it directly into the glove box so it’s always on hand.
And lastly, your auto insurance card should also stay in the vehicle. Having proof of insurance is extremely important if you get into an accident. It’s one of the first things you’ll be asked for.
Glove boxes do tend to get a littler cluttered with service records, napkins, and so on. So consider putting your registration and insurance card together in a small envelope so you can access them more easily.
Emergency Supplies are a Must
While it might seem like a hassle to have an extra bag or case hanging around in the car, you just never know when you might need emergency supplies.
A vehicle emergency kit can contain everything from useful tools to first aid essentials. Putting one together and keeping it stocked will really pay off if you ever break down or experience a crash.
Paying for Roadside Assistance is Worth It
If you get into an accident and your car is too damaged to drive, it has to be towed from the scene to a safe place.
If you have roadside assistance, you can call and ask for help immediately and have your vehicle towed to an auto service center that specializes in car and collision repair.
However, if you don’t have a roadside assistance plan, the police will arrange for your car to be hauled away and taken to a storage facility.
Though that takes care of the problem in the moment, you’ll be pretty shocked when you get the bill.
Whether it’s through a dealer, your insurance company, or another organization, it’s very wise to make sure that you have towing coverage in case of a crash.
It will save you a great deal of time and money if anything ever does happen, and you’ll be glad that you prepared in advance.
You Have to Watch What You Say
After a collision, the most important thing is to make sure everyone is okay, and then get to safety.
But when checking on the other people involved, you really have to watch what you say. Your instincts might prompt you to apologize or say that it was your fault out of courtesy, but you definitely want to avoid that.
If you admit to being responsible for the accident in any way, you can’t take that statement back. And you’re likely to end up on the hook for all of the other person’s damages.
You also want to be careful to avoid giving a cut and dry answer about physical injuries. Though you might feel all right directly after the crash, issues, like a concussion or spinal injury, can show up later on.
If you state that you have no injuries, subsequent medical expenses may not end up being covered. It’s best to say that you’re not sure and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Be Sure to Get Everyone’s Information
For insurance purposes, it’s critical to get the other driver’s relevant information while you’re at the scene. Here are the details you should collect:
- Phone number
- Insurance company
- Policy number
- Driver license number
- License plate number
If for any reason the name of the driver differs from the name on the insurance card, ask what the relationship is, write it down, and ask for contact information for the person who actually holds the policy.
Keep in mind that there is no reason for anyone to share social security numbers. If asked for yours, politely say that it’s not necessary.
Not only is it key to get information from any other drivers involved in the crash, but it’s also a smart move to write down names and contact details for anyone who witnessed it.
Should there be legal ramifications later, you want to make sure that you have a record of people who saw the whole thing take place.
You Should Document the Accident
After the situation is under control, you should take a few minutes to document the incident while it’s still fresh in your mind.
Write down all of the pertinent details like when and where the collision took place, what caused it, and what happened. Be specific about speed, road conditions, and weather conditions.
Make sure you also take down a description of each car involved. Make note of the make, model, color, and year.
You may want to write down anything the other driver has said as well. If they directly admitted fault to you or if you overhead them say something relevant, making a note of it can’t hurt.
If possible, it’s also a great idea to take pictures of the scene. Be sure not to get in the way of the police officer, but try to take a few shots before anyone leaves or has their car towed.
What you want to capture is any damage to either vehicle, the position of each vehicle, license plates, and any debris or road marks that are from the crash.
If the cars have been moved away from where the original collision occurred, take pics of relevant landmarks such as streetlights or hydrants. Those points of reference will help when you’re trying to explain the scenario to someone else after the fact.
Reporting Accurately is Key
You’ll have to give your account of the events to the police while you’re at the scene. Though it can be difficult to organize your thoughts after such a traumatic event, you do need to be as accurate as possible.
If you can’t state something for sure, be honest, and tell the officer that you don’t know. It’s better to take your time and be straight with the police than to say something you don’t mean or may regret later.
It’s also a good idea to follow up and request a copy of the police report when it’s available a couple days after the incident.
Knowing how the officer recorded the situation can be helpful when you’re negotiating with insurance companies or handling any legal aftermath.
Your insurance company will also want to take a statement, but it’s a good idea to consult with your lawyer before putting anything on the record.
Call your insurance company to report the accident and file a claim as soon as possible, but ask to make your statement at a separate time so you have the opportunity to seek advice first.
Keeping Good Records Will Help
It’s always a good idea to save paperwork and receipts for any service or repair that you have done to your vehicle.
Evidence of good care can help you get a better price for your car if you choose to sell it or trade it in. Those same documents can also come in handy after an accident.
If your car is determined to be beyond repair, and the insurance company deems it “totaled,” providing evidence of money you recently invested in vehicle improvements can help you get the biggest return for your car.
Hanging onto relevant paperwork after an accident is a good move too. Keep track of medical, auto repair, and car rental expenses so you can submit them for reimbursement.