1. Safety first.
If it is appropriate and safe to do so, move your vehicle out of the way so other cars can pass. However, do not leave the scene of the accident. Call 911 immediately for medical assistance if anyone is injured and ask for a police officer to come and take a report.
2. Stay calm.
Do not panic or become upset. If you have young children in the car, they will take their lead from you. Insurance companies advise that you should never admit fault at the accident. Be sure that you are polite and calm to everyone involved, including the police officers. Also make sure to get the officer’s name, district and police report number.
3. Gather information.
Exchange contact information with others involved in the accident, getting important details like full name, address, phone number and insurance carrier. Almost 15 percent of all accidents are caused by uninsured drivers according to Insurance.com, so ask to see a current insurance ID card. Also, be sure to write down the year, make, model and license plate number for each vehicle involved. If there are any witnesses involved, gather their contact information as well. It is a good idea to keep a small notebook in your vehicle for this reason.
4. Document the accident.
With your cell phone or a disposable camera, take multiple photos of the accident scene and the damage to your car. If you observed the driver talking or texting before the accident, tell your claim adjuster and the police. Texting while driving is illegal is fourteen states—and an additional ten states prohibit texting by new drivers.
5. Report the accident to your insurance company right away no matter how minor.
A driver may offer to settle with you in cash to avoid increased insurance rates. On average, rates increase 20 percent or more for the first accident, according to Insurance.com. But, there’s no guarantee you’ll get paid directly, so let your insurer handle the details.
Also, remember to always have the following items accessible in your car. In the case of an accident, they will make the process smoother for all parties involved:
- Your insurance ID card
- Your vehicle’s registration card
- A list of emergency contacts (spouse, partner, parents, close friends)
- A medical card listing any allergies, medications or special conditions
- Pen and a small notebook
- Flares, jumper cables and a flashlight
- First-aid kit
- Disposable or digital camera (if your cell phone does not have one)