No one plans to get into an automobile accident, yet accidents are a real possibility whenever anyone gets behind the wheel. Even the most conscientious driver can fall victim to inclement weather, bad road conditions, and dangerous drivers. When accidents do occur, they can be very stressful and have lasting financial affects. What you do before the accident, immediately after, and even weeks later can have a huge effect on the outcome, including the financial fallout.
Before the Accident
Even if you never plan to have an accident, you should still be prepared for the possibility.
The most important thing is to make sure that you have car insurance, and that it’s up to date. Not only is it illegal to drive without it, but if you aren’t insured all the financial responsibility for the crash will fall on your shoulders.
If you are having trouble getting insured due to past traffic offenses, you might have to look into a high-risk policy and you might also need a SR22 policy. There are several companies that can help you figure out if you need SR22 insurance. Whatever you choose to do, you should make sure you have a valid insurance policy in effect before you get behind the wheel.
You should also keep a copy of your insurance information in your vehicle. Some insurance companies have electronic cards that you can access on your smartphone, but if you are in an area without cell reception, or if your smartphone is damaged, then you’re out of luck. Having a paper copy ensures that the information is available, no matter where you are.
In addition to your insurance card, you should also consider making a road safety kit with some or all of the following:
· Warning triangles and emergency flares;
· A flashlight;
· Disposable camera, to take photos of the scene;
· Mylar blankets, for shock or in case you have to wait by the road in cold weather;
· A first aid kit;
· Pen and paper;
· Kitty litter, for traction on ice or oil;
· Medical and insurance information, including emergency contacts.
You can buy these kits pre-made, but they can be expensive and contain cheap components. Your better option is to make your own kit and secure it in your trunk.
Right After the Accident
The moments immediately following an accident can be confusing and chaotic. The very first thing you should do is stay in your car until you can assess the situation. If you exit the vehicle you could get hit by another vehicle, aggravate an injury, or have a dangerous encounter with another driver. If you can, try driving your car off to the side of the road to get it out of the flow of traffic, before getting out. The exception is if staying in your vehicle would be more dangerous than exiting.
Do not admit fault or try to assign blame for the accident. Simply exchange your information with the other driver(s) and wait for the authorities to respond. If you can, you can take photos or take notes about the scene while you are waiting.
At the time of the accident you might be in too much shock to realize how injured you are, so don’t try to speculate or make comments about your injuries. Let the paramedics examine you when they arrive, and take whatever advice they give.
Contact the insurance companies as soon as possible. If you are in an accident with another driver, you might have to call their insurance company as well as yours, just to make sure the accident gets reported with both companies.
Whether leaving your vehicle at the scene, or having it towed away, make sure to remove any valuables. This includes your registration and insurance information as well as any personal items, such as cell phones, purses and wallets.
The Days After the Accident
Follow up with your doctor to determine the status of your injuries. You should also have your vehicle checked. Your insurance company might send someone out to assess the damage, or you might be responsible for getting it checked on your own.
Check in with your insurance company, and with the other driver’s insurance company. You might need to make several calls, especially if dealing with the other driver’s insurance.
Contact a lawyer. Even if you are not at fault, you might need some legal assistance. For example, some insurance companies are notoriously bad at paying out medical claims, having a lawyer in court could help expedite the process. A lawyer can also give you information on other options for reducing the financial impact of the accident.