UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.
We strive to help you make confident insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We partner with top insurance providers. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
By now, you’ve probably already discovered why you need auto insurance. It’s required by law, it offers excellent financial protection, and it will ensure you are taken care of if you are involved in an accident.
Unfortunately, almost everybody is involved in an auto accident at least once in their lifetime. Some times you will be found at fault, some times you will not be. While almost everyone carries auto insurance, few people know how to handle a car accident the first time this situation arises. This is why it’s essential to learn the proper procedure for handling a collision on the road.
At the same time, if you are the parent of a young, new driver, the prospect of your child being involved in a car accident is nerve-wracking. Discussing safe driving habits and the appropriate actions one should take if an accident occurs is of utmost importance.
Below, we take a look at the proper course of action you should consider if you are involved in an accident. Continue reading to learn how to exchange info with the other party, contact authorities, gather evidence, and ultimately file your insurance claim.
Exchange Information With The Other Driver
If the collision didn’t cause any severe damage to you, your vehicle, or the other party, there usually isn’t a reason to get the police department involved. However, if medical attention is required, or if you aren’t sure who is to blame, you may need the authorities there to mediate the situation.
Regardless of whether authorities are contacted or not, there are a few vital pieces of information that all involved parties should exchange. These details will make it easy to file a claim when you get home.
As for personal information, it’s best to take down the other party’s name and phone number. For good measure, you can also take down his or her driver’s license number.
For car information, you should jot down the license plate number as well as the make and model of the vehicle.
For insurance information, it’s best to take down the other party’s insurance company name and policy number. This is often found on their insurance card.
The reason all this information is needed is that it helps streamline the process of filing a claim (without doing much detective work). If all parties involved in the accident are insured with active policies, processing a claim is usually a walk in the park.
Unfortunately, not everybody has auto insurance. This is why it’s important to get as close to “full coverage” as possible when it comes to buying a policy. If you do not have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with your auto insurance policy, and you get into an accident with an uninsured driver, you might have to pay out-of-pocket for damages.
Collect As Much Evidence As Possible
After exchanging information with the other driver, collect more information from the scene of the accident (assuming it’s safe to do so).
Talk to witnesses around the scene who may have viewed the collision, for example. Ask them what they saw. Consider recording their statements (take a video with your phone, for example). Get the names and contact information of any witnesses you talk to. They may play a key role in the upcoming investigation. Take note of any witnesses the other driver speaks with. If you’re the victim of car insurance fraud, then you may need to worry about planted witnesses. However, this isn’t likely to be an issue for most accidents.
Take pictures of the collision and the scene of the incident. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle, skid marks, the other vehicle, the intersection, other property damage, and anything else that could be relevant in your upcoming insurance claim. The more pictures you take, the better. Any photo can make your claim easier.
Jot down any street names, intersections, and landmarks at the scene of the accident. These will help you later on when describing the accident to your insurance company.
Finally, if you decided to call the police, make sure you ask the officer to file a police report if necessary. A police report can expedite the claim and make it easier to receive compensation. If the police are at the scene, then let them objectively judge events and determine who, if anyone, is at fault. The police officer will record statements from drivers involved to determine who is at fault.
If the police arrive, get the names and badge numbers of all responding officers. Ask these officers where you can obtain a copy of the accident report when it’s complete.
While communicating with the police and the other driver, remember to avoid apologizing. In the United States, an apology can be used against you when making a claim. If you apologize, it could indicate that you were at-fault – even if you’re just being a nice person.
Once you’ve collected evidence, you can start making a claim with your insurance company.
Filing a Claim
When it comes time to make a claim with your insurance company, make sure you have all the information on-hand that we detailed above. If you decided to get the police involved, make sure to have the case number on-hand as well.
Your insurance company will ask you to describe the accident as best as you can recall. Refer to the evidence you gathered (such as street names, photographs, etc.). Everything you can remember about the accident, as well as all pieces of evidence, all may be critical to filing and processing your claim.
Your insurer will send an adjuster who will most likely want to see the evidence you gathered, so make sure it’s neatly put together and organized. They will also ask for the other driver’s information as well (their name, address, phone number, insurance provider, insurance policy number, license number, and license plate number).
After speaking to the adjuster, it’s mostly out of your hands. The two auto insurance companies will communicate and you will have to wait for them to issue a payout. This process usually takes up to 15, 30, or 60 days, depending on state law. But rest assured! As long as everything is in order, you will soon have a check in hand to repair any damage to your vehicle.