No website on personal injury claims could possibly be complete without a "When in an Accident" page. Brochures about what you should do when in an accident are in every insurance agent's office, as well as the offices of most attorneys, and even those of many medical providers. Sometimes they are titled "What To Do In Case Of An Accident". However they are referred to, these brochures all go over the usual stuff:
• Stop – after all, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident no matter how minor you think it might be.
• Warn other motorists: When in an accident, turn on your hazard lights or take other measures to warn other motorists so that the situation does not worsen.
• Check for injuries and render aid if necessary.
• Call the police or 911.
• Get the other driver’s information, including their insurance information.
• Get the make, model and tag number of the other vehicle. You can use that to track down insurance information if the other is unwilling or unable to provide it to you.
• Gather names and contact information for witnesses. (If they say they don’t want to get involved or are in a hurry to rush off, take down their license plate numbers.)
• Do not admit fault as situations become clearer after everyone has had a chance to calm down.
• Call your insurance company as soon as is practical. Tell your agent when you have been in an accident. Do this whether or not you believe the accident was your fault. If you were at fault, the insurance company can contact the other party quickly. If you were not, you may want to apply for first-party coverages and have the insurance company act as your advocate. Your insurance company will work for you when investigating the accident and the other driver’s insurance company will work for them. You are paying your insurance company a premium for policy – use it.
This item does not usually make it onto the “When In An Accident” list, but it is extremely important: take photographs at the accident scene. If you do not make it a practice to carry a camera around in your vehicle, your cell phone will do. Take photographs of the vehicles involved, the drivers involved and the scene. Don’t be shy and do not let anyone at the scene intimidate you into not taking photographs. Do not rely on the police to take photographs either. The police usually do not take photographs unless there are severe injuries or deaths involved. Also, the police may not show up until after vehicles have been moved or parties left the scene. Here are just some of the reasons why good photographs are so important when you have been involved in an accident.
You will positively identify the other vehicle involved. Tip: get the vehicle license plate in at least one photograph. This is especially important in cases where the police either do not respond or reach the scene after the other driver has left the scene in his vehicle. This prevents the other party from denying involvement in an accident later.
You will positively identify the other driver involved. Again, this is especially important in cases where the police either do not respond or reach the scene after the other driver has left the scene in his vehicle. This prevents the other driver from denying involvement later. In some cases, even if it is obvious that the other vehicle was involved in the accident, the owner may say that the vehicle was stolen or that it was used without his/her permission and the insurance company will not pay. Sometimes you really need to be quick; in some cases drivers like to flee the scene of an accident on foot.
You will properly document how severe (or not) the impact was. Imagine that you roll into another vehicle in a parking lot and the impact is negligible. You may believe that you have been involved in a very minor accident, but by the time the other driver contacts your insurance company there is a lot more damage to their vehicle and he or she anticipates months of medical treatment. Or imagine that your vehicle sustained a fair amount of damage but the other driver leaves the scene and has his vehicle repaired before your insurance company can track it down, making it appear that you have exaggerated your own damages (and getting you investigated for insurance fraud).
You will positively identify exactly where the accident occurred. Surprisingly, sometimes the drivers involved in an accident do not even agree about where the accident occurred. Not only should you get photographs which will identify the exact location on the map, but also which lane of the road, or which aisle of the parking lot. You will also have evidence of where the vehicles were placed on the roadway at the time of impact. This can help with the investigation to determine fault.
You will positively identify how many people were in the other vehicle. Imagine that your insurance company calls to let you know that two adults and three children in the other vehicle wish to make injury claims against your policy. All five people are undergoing medical treatment. You know that there was only a driver in the other vehicle involved in this accident, but without scene photographs, it may be your word against theirs.
We all want to think the best of our fellow man, and believe that we do not need to go to such lengths to protect ourselves when in an accident, but it truly better to be safe than sorry. Keep a camera in your car, or carry a cell phone that can take photographs so that you will be prepared when in an accident. It really is true that pictures are worth a thousand words.
This article is written for informational purposes and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.
Other articles related to this topic:
The Insurance Claims Handling Process Explained
An Explanation of First Party Claims vs. Third Party Claims
Is An Attorney Necessary?
The Black Box in Your Vehicle
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