Being in this business we have learned that although there are many auto accidents and collisions everyday, not all people know how to handle these situation or how to prepare ahead of time. We have compiled a list based on the everyday situations we see – some things you probably know, and some things may come as a surprise.
- Safety – Yes, first and foremost make sure everyone is safe. Acknowledge the other driver and ensure that no one is injured. If so call 911.
- Move-It! – If it is a minor accident, your car is driveable, and there are no injuries, get your cars off the road if you can. Many people think that they should leave their cars in place until the police come, but the reality is that most officers won’t respond right away for minor collisions anyhow. They may come to write up a report if the situation calls for it but the responding officer will likely ask you to move your vehicle. The risk of you, or the other party getting hit by oncoming traffic along with traffic jams is not worth it. Communicate with the other driver and let them know what you are doing.
- Exchange Info – Often times we know to take a snapshot of the licence and insurance information. But these items do not contain contact information. Get a phone number or and email and offer yours!
- Take Photos – Take extensive photos of the vehicles including damage, vin/license plates, and a shot of the whole vehicle with any identifying attributes. In a perfect world, the at fault person will admit to their mistake, insurance will cover the damage, and we are all on our merry way. Not always the case. Even if someone admits to fault at first, they may change their mind, or if there is question about who is at fault, photos are the best tools for the insurance companies to make the determination.
- Police Report – although a police report can be helpful in determining facts, dates, and times, they are not always necessary. If it is a small accident many times, a report is not needed. However, the police are there to help and if you feel strange about the situation in any way – go ahead and call the police.
- Get and Estimate – assuming you were able to drive away from the scene, go to a body shop as soon as possible and have the damage assessed. There are a few reasons for this.
- First, even if your car seems to be running fine, an experienced estimator can take a quick look and ensure there are no plastic pieces that might puncture you tires etc. Safety first!
- Second, a lot can happen between an accident and when you get your car looked at. If you can get to a shop asap, they can get professional and clear photos of the fresh damage which will be important later on.
- Follow Up – the sooner the better. Contact your insurance company as well as the other parties insurance company. In the even that it is the other persons fault, their insurance company will not accept liability until they have made contact with their insured and gotten a statement. Be diligent.
There are also some things you can do to prepare.
- If you have the means, invest in a dash cam. There are pretty inexpensive options available and even the low quality ones can record the situation and back you up.
- Have a safety kit in your car. Flares, water, first aid, and snacks.
- Keep your insurance information handy. We have all had moments where we have forgotten to put our new car in our glovebox. Most insurance cards also have vital phone numbers on them that can be useful for things like towing or even asking questions.
- HAVE INSURANCE! Not only is it illegal to not have auto insurance, it is not smart. Even if it is just liability you will be much better off. Did you know that in California if you hit another person, your liability insurance covers their damage, rental, and you don’t pay a deductible? YES, if nothing else, at least protect yourself with liability insurance.
- Know your coverage. If you have more than just liability (which is a smart move) make sure you understand what is covered in the event of an accident. Go over different scenarios with your agent and find out if there are any gaps.
- Lower your deductibles. Most of the time, lowering your deductibles only costs a dew extra dollars a month. In the long run, you will thank yourself. Trust us!
- Keep an emergency contact in your wallet or glove box. Make it easy for first responders to contact your loved ones in the event of a serious accident.
- Do some research ahead of time for stuff. Have some good shops in the area in mind if you don’t already have a shop.
- Your insurance company can recommend a shop for you, but make sure and do you own research. Insurance companies have contracts with certain shops which doesn’t always equal good quality. In California, legally, you can take your vehicle to the shop of your choice.