You have just had an accident. Your beautiful vehicle is smashed. Besides wanting to cry, what should you do?
· First of all, stay calm. Your heart rate will be elevated and you may even be in shock. Try to breathe deeply in your nose and out of your mouth to bring your heart rate down so you can think more clearly.
· Make sure that you and your passengers are OK. With that in mind, you or your passengers may feel that they are OK but are actually injured. The adrenaline may be masking the pain or the real pain will start hours later. If somebody is injured, it’s usually not a good idea to move them. Let the paramedics make the call as to how and when to move an injured person.
· Call the police. If somebody is injured, call 911. Let the trained police officers and medical personnel take over the situation. If nobody seems to be hurt, the police likely will not come to the scene of the accident unless they have to conduct traffic control.
· Move the vehicle to the side of the road. If there is nobody injured in your vehicle, it is safe to do so, and the vehicle is drivable, move the vehicle to the safer side of the road to avoid further incidents.
· IMPORTANT! Do not admit fault for the accident. Please remember that whatever you say can and will be used against you when determining whose fault the accident was and the percentage of fault assigned to each driver (this is called comparative negligence). It can and will be used against you in a court of law as well. Let the insurance adjuster and/or attorney do the talking for you. You will only make matters worse.
· Contact your insurance company and report the claim. The sooner you do this, the quicker the company will resolve your claim. You will likely remember all of the facts of the accident better while they are still fresh in your mind. The insurance company’s claims department wants to hear a first-hand account of the accident. In other words, they want to hear you tell your side of the story. The company’s claims phone number is usually on the back side of your insurance I.D. card which also includes your policy number. This should always be kept in your glove box.
· Obtain the names and phone numbers of any credible witnesses. What do I mean by a “credible” witness? Insurance companies usually will not take the word of a relative that was in the car with you. Their statement will likely be deemed to be prejudiced. The best witness is someone who was not involved in the accident and who had a clear view of the entire incident.
· Exchange vital information with the other driver involved in the accident. This includes insurance information, your name, and your phone number. It is also a good idea to take a picture of the other driver’s vehicle license plate and any damage to his or her vehicle. It’s amazing how magically, the facts of the incident change by the other party, injuries get elevated, and the damage gets worse.
Of course, if you have questions regarding a claim or simply need guidance, you can always give us a call at 760-893-8055.