7 Steps to take after an auto accident

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the United States has over 6 million car accidents annually. While many of these are minor accidents, others are more serious and the U.S. is fourth in the world in terms of the number road fatalities. The right insurance company can help ensure that a car accident does not happen. You can save yourself the pain of a car accident by knowing what steps to take in case one happens.

Prepare for an accident

Before an accident, the first step to determining what to do is to make sure that drivers understand what their auto insurance policy covers. Michael Gutter, assistant professor of family finance management at the University of Florida, says that many people don’t know what their policies cover.

“It is important to take a look at those. State laws vary. It is important to understand what protections you have, especially if you don’t have insurance.

These are just a few other ways to prepare:

  • In case of an accident, make sure you have the insurance card and any other information such as name of provider, policy numbers, and phone number.
  • To take photos, keep a disposable camera handy or your smartphone nearby.
  • Keep a small pen, a pad of paper, and a flashlight in your glove compartment.
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After everyone is safe, call the police

Kip Diggs, spokesperson for State Farm Insurance says that “Obviously the first thing that you want to do it is make sure everybody is okay.” For serious injuries, dial 911 to get an ambulance. To avoid an accident, you should move your vehicles from the traffic.

Experts recommend calling the police immediately after an accident. Beth Hanlon, an agent with Allstate Insurance, Riverhead, N.Y., says that even if someone says they will take care of you, they still need to call.

This adds an extra layer of protection to all parties. A police report will also serve as an official record of an accident. Call the county or state police if the accident occurs on an interstate highway.

The officer will usually file an incident report if the accident is minor and does not cause injury or significant damage. This serves as information exchange. To assist with the insurance process and to establish legal liability, an officer will file an accident report if the accident is more serious.

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If it’s a minor accident, officers might not arrive on the scene. James Kenneally, a Boston officer says that police officers don’t send a car to every accident. “We can’t afford to, given our limited resources.”

Contact your insurance company

Insurance experts recommend calling your carrier, regardless of how serious the accident is. The sooner your insurance company is notified, the easier it will be to make any payments to those involved in the accident.

Gutter points out that there may be instances when it is not a good idea for your insurer to get involved. He points out that in some cases, insurance companies are prohibited from raising rates unless the insured is at fault. “But if your rates are not protected, I can understand why someone would hesitate to call his/her insurance company, even if it was a minor fender bender.”

Call the insurance company as soon as you can if they are required to be notified. Sometimes our customers are in an accident and the other guy will call. That raises eyebrows,” says Hanlon. Your insurance company should be notified within one day.

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Exchange and collect insurance information

Shawn Burklin is senior vice president of GEICO insurance. He says, “If you can, take photos including the surrounding area traffic signs, lane markings, and damage to vehicles involved.”
Photographs are especially important in accidents on private property or parking lots. Police may not be there and it can prove difficult to pinpoint exactly what happened.

Note the contact information, name and insurance information of the other driver. You may call the carrier to confirm coverage if the other driver doesn’t have proof of current insurance.

Also, it is important to record all details regarding the accident. Hanlon states that the claims representative at your insurance company will have many questions. Hanlon says, “What direction were your travels and which street were they in?” Did you see any signs or stoplights? They will also need to determine where your vehicle was impacted.

It is also a smart idea to obtain the contact information and names of witnesses who can verify what has happened.

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Take care of your liability

Talking to the other driver should be limited to exchanging contact information and insurance information. Gutter states, “Don’t answer any questions or make statements.” Answer all questions honestly if the police are called. Who determines liability and who is at fault in the accident depends on whether you live in an either at-fault, or no-fault country. It is recommended that you not admit guilt, and instead allow the insurance companies to make the decision.

Find out if you need to file a claim

You don’t have to file a claim if the damage to your car and the total damage are not severe. For example, if your car sustains $500 damage and the deductible exceeds $1,000, it might not be worth filing a claim. This could lead to a higher premium.

In certain cases, insurance companies should be involved. These are:

  • No matter how minor, injuries can be serious. It is impossible for anyone to predict the cost of medical bills and the possibility that you will be sued.
  • If there is severe damage to the vehicle or both cars are totaled.
  • The police report will not be conclusive if it is unclear who is to blame. This is especially true in parking lot accidents where there may not have been stop signs or lane markings to clearly indicate who has the right-of-way.
  • If it is your fault.
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It is best to inform your insurance company about any accident, as they are there to protect you.

Keep track of all repairs

When your car is involved in an accident, it is a good idea to remain involved during the repair process.

Gutter states, “You don’t want to leave it all to the insurance company.” Gutter says that the insurer wants the repairs to be as affordable as possible. There may not be many options for where and how the car is taken. The key is to ensure that you have the right of original manufacturer parts to be installed.

After an accident, it is important that you let your insurance company handle all communications with the other driver.

Refer the other driver’s insurer to your company if they contact you. Burklin says that while you are not required by law to cooperate with another party’s insurer, your claims representative will help you determine the best way to deal with your claim. This may include cooperating the other party’s carrier.

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Get lower car insurance rates

Auto insurance rates can rise after an accident, which could make it a good idea to shop around for a lower rate policy. These are some tips to help make the right decision.

  • Consider obtaining discounts and special coverage options such as accident forgiveness. While it may not be applicable to the accident that caused it, it could prove useful in future accidents.
  • Ask family and friends if they would recommend an insurer.
  • There are advantages to both regional and large insurance companies.
  • Online quotes are available to help you compare coverages and discount options. You can call an agent if you have any questions or need assistance customizing the right policy.
  • Low cost is not the only thing to consider. Customer service is another important consideration. J.D. Power’s 2020 Auto Claims Satisfaction Study will show you which insurers have the best reputation in terms of claims handling and customer satisfaction.

Questions frequently asked

Which is the best auto insurance company?

There is no one right option. You should consider what is most important to you, such as price, coverage, discounts or third-party reviews.

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Are my rates going to go up after an accident with a car?

Rates could be affected if you are in an accident with a car or file a claim to recover damages or injuries. Although accident forgiveness may not increase your rates, it is important that you have the coverage in place before an at-fault incident occurs.

What should I do if an accident causes me to call the police?

You should call the police immediately after an accident if there are any injuries or vehicles that cannot be safely removed from the road. You can call the police if you have any questions about the next steps after an accident.