What to do if you’re in an accident.
We don’t really plan to be in an accident. It’s not like we wake up in the morning and see on our calendar “car accident” in the 10:30 a.m. slot. But, when we do experience an accident, we need to be prepared. It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, these tips are relevant for caring for yourself and anyone else involved.
Be Truthful and Protect Yourself
Whether a minor fender bender or an accident resulting in a totaled car, you’ll be shaken up. Don’t question yourself and what you were doing behind the wheel. If you know you were doing something wrong, then speak up. If you’re sure you were right, then let that be known as well. Your doubt most likely will impact the insurance claim and police report. Don’t be hesitant. It’s easy to question yourself after the event, so remind yourself of what was happening leading up to the crash. It certainly seems unnatural, but even avoid saying, “I’m sorry.” Those words imply fault, and since you’re young, the finger of blame more easily falls on you. It’s hard to think clearly after you’ve been in an accident, but it’s incredibly important. Mistakes you make directly after the accident could have a significant impact on the situation.
At the Site of the Accident
Here are the immediate actions you do need to take:
- Stay as calm as possible. First, check yourself and anyone else involved to ensure that no one is hurt or injured from the collision. If you or someone else involved in the accident is majorly hurt get help right away by calling 911, the police, a hospital or highway patrol.
- Then, make sure that the accident won’t cause other accidents or injuries. It seems obvious, but you must stop at the scene of the accident, or close by. In some states, it’s illegal to move the car from the site. If possible, move the vehicles to the side of the road to prevent further damage or distraction.
- Turn off the ignitions of all cars involved. Put out flares or reflective triangles several hundred feet in front of and behind the crash site. If the accident occurs at night, leave on your low-beam headlights.
- Call your parents and let them know where you are, what happened and if you’re okay. They will probably want to know all the details, which is good practice for telling the police. Most likely, they’ll want to come to the site to make sure you’re okay. Take big, deep breaths when you’re talking to them. It’s easy to become emotional when you’re talking to people who love and care for you after you’ve been in an accident.
Injured Involved in the Accident
Now that the site is secured, it seems natural to want to help anyone who’s injured. In some situations, this could actually hinder the situation more. So, unless someone is in danger of being run over or injured more, do not move or try to help that individual. You can certainly administer basic first aid if necessary, but beyond that, it’s best to wait for medical assistance – which if you called for help right away, they are on the way. If someone’s in agony, ensure them that help is near. If someone is cold or chilled, cover them with a blanket. Emergency personnel will be able to administer treatment on the way to the hospital, so don’t let anyone else take injured individuals to the hospital.
Police Report Information
Always call the police, even if the accident seems minor. Your insurance company may require a police report to process a claim. If a police report is filed, there’s less room for unwarranted surprises. While you’re waiting for the police, fill out your own accident report form. At the very least, start gathering personal information on a pad of paper that you store in your glove box or make a note on your phone. Here’s helpful information to collect:
- Name, address, phone number, insurance company, license plate number and the make/model of the car.
- Note the time of day, the place, the number of lanes in the road, the weather and road conditions.
- Go ahead and make a sketch of the scene. Include where the cars and passengers were located as well as the directions and lane in which the cars were driving.
- Use your cell phone to take pictures of the site and damage on the vehicles.
- Ask for the names and numbers of any eye witnesses around.
When the police arrive, be honest and give them as much information as you can possibly remember. Make sure you receive a copy of the officer’s business card with his name, badge number and contact information so you can obtain a copy of your police report.
If you or your parents haven’t already, contact your insurance company. Your agent can help you record any additional information that may be pertinent to your claim.
The Condition of Your Car
If you’re unable to drive your car away from the crash site, then you’ll need to choose a tow company. You’ll also need to inform the tow company where to take your car. You don’t want to have to pay for towing your car multiple times, so be mindful of the best location to transport your car. Your insurance company will need to inspect the damage of the vehicle, so they can guide you on the best location.
If your car’s still in working order, you do not need to pay for any repairs. If you decide to do the repairs, you don’t need to have them done by the facility in which your car was towed. Call your family mechanic, your car dealer and insurance company to determine where to have your car repaired. Many insurance companies have dealers that they prefer. It’s advised that you use one of these locations.
Talking to Your Insurance Agent
Be sure to get instructions from your insurance agent on how to file your claim. Write those instructions down or make a note in your phone. Then repeat the instructions back to the agent to make sure you understand the process.
Keep all the receipts that you accrue during the process. If your family needs a rental car, the repairs made on your vehicle, towing expenses, doctor visits pertaining to injuries, etc. Don’t underestimate what you can be reimbursed for while you recover.
If you’re mature enough to drive, then you’re responsible enough to take on all of the procedures required when in an accident. You can certainly ask your parents for help, but they do not need to take the lead. Dealing with an accident is a time-consuming and often frustrating process, but it is a consequence you have to pay – even if the accident was not your fault.