You are definitely not alone if you have recently been in a car accident. According to the CDC, over 6 million car accidents occur each year. Many car insurance companies estimate that the average driver will experience three to four accidents at different levels of severity throughout their lifetime.
But even though car accidents happen often, and you may have experienced one before, it can be challenging to know what to do in the chaotic moments after the accident.
Shock, adrenaline, and intense emotions often accompany a car accident and can’t always be anticipated. Here are some essential questions to ask that will help guide you through the aftermath of a car accident.
Is Anyone Hurt?
The safety of everyone involved in the accident is the first priority after an accident. If you can safely get out of your car, you should first check on any passengers in your car and anyone in the other cars involved.
If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately. The dispatcher will first ask for your location, so be ready with the address and as many details as possible (i.e., the southwest corner of the intersection), so help can be sent as quickly as possible.
Even if injuries appear minor, there is a chance of underlying issues that may need to be assessed by paramedics. You may not notice some injuries until a few days or weeks later. That’s why it is a good idea to see your preferred medical professional after an accident to ensure everything is all right.
Have the police been called?
But what if the accident is just a minor fender bender, and no one is injured? You may not need to call 911 for immediate assistance, but you should still call the police to the scene to mediate and officially record what happened.
A police officer can file a report that includes statements from everyone involved, investigative findings, and a record of crucial personal information for insurance purposes. Without a police report, filing an insurance claim can become difficult, especially if the accident was not your fault.
But speaking of fault, you should not admit fault after the accident. The state in which you live may have specific laws about who is responsible for compensation after an accident. Instead, let the responding officer and insurance companies determine how to proceed.
In states with at-fault laws, the driver who caused the accident is liable for any damages or losses sustained from the accident. No-fault states still determine which party caused the accident.
Still, the driver responsible for the collision is not liable for costs associated with injuries. They are only responsible for damages to the car and property. Many no-fault states require car insurance for all active drivers, but compensation can also be made out of pocket.
Calling the police, whether via 911 or the local non-emergency number, can make a huge difference in how the rest of the aftermath of a car accident is handled and protect you from unfounded lawsuits. You do not want to skip this important step.
How bad is the damage?
Determining the extent of the damages to your vehicle can be tricky. It’s essential to take pictures of everything impacted by the accident, including any debris that may have come off a vehicle.
Take pictures from multiple angles, and focus on documenting as much detail as possible. These photos and the police report can help determine what happened, who is responsible for the damage, how insurance claims should be processed, and what repairs need to be made.
Before leaving the scene of the car accident, you should determine whether your vehicle is safe to drive. If the collision is hard enough to cause physical injuries to you or any passengers, there is a good chance there is enough damage to your car that it should not be driven.
Some other signs that a vehicle should not be driven are broken mirrors or lights, leaking fluids, or bent wheels.
How do I file an Insurance claim?
Once everyone’s safety is assured, and the police dismiss the people involved in the accident, the next step is to file an insurance claim.
A claim is the process by which you notify your insurance company of an accident. Most companies have websites or apps that can walk you through filing a claim quickly and easily, but you can always file a claim over the phone. Provide as many details of the accident as possible, including the police report number and any photos taken.
Once the insurance company has the details of the accident, you can then access the coverage and benefits that are part of your designated plan.
The coverage details of your plan will explain how much of the financial cost of the repairs and injuries will be taken care of by the insurance company and how much you might have to pay out of pocket.
How do I get my vehicle repaired?
It can be tempting to try and fix your vehicle yourself, but many risks come with DIY repair jobs. It’s best to take your car to a professional repair shop to ensure your car is fixed safely and effectively. Not all mechanics are the same, and you want to seek out a collision repair specialist shop after an accident.
Finding a collision repair shop can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some answers to FAQs you might find helpful. Many shops offer an estimate or quote before taking on a repair, so you can gauge what repairs will cost and how long they will take.
Knowing what attention and care your car may need is also important. Some auto body shops may specialize in foreign cars or focus on repairing domestic brands. Some may offer more customized restorations.
Whether the repairs are simple or complex, the right auto repair shop will safely get you back on the road without hassle.
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