After an automobile accident, many people continue to suffer stress because they are not sure when or how accidents should be reported. Knowing what to do after a car accident can help alleviate stress and put your mind at ease.
Notifying the Police
A car accident involving property damage over a certain amount must be reported to police. It can be hard to determine how much damage has been done, which is why it is better to err on the side of caution and notify police any time there is damage. Motorists are also required to notify police if there is an injury, regardless of how minor it might be.
While waiting for police to arrive, individuals should first render aid to anyone who needs it. Next, they should collect some basic information such as:
- The names and addresses of witnesses
- Name and insurance information for the other driver
- Year, make and model of the vehicles that are involved
It’s also important to write down as much information about the accident as possible. Taking pictures of the scene is an excellent way to ensure information is preserved, and can help tremendously with accident scene reconstruction.
Drivers should not admit fault, and should avoid discussing the details of the accident with other parties at the scene. It’s important to remain calm and professional, even if the other driver becomes angry and begins making accusations.
Once the police investigation is completed, a written report will then be prepared. This report is needed in order to file an insurance claim. It may also be necessary to submit this report to other agencies such as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Commercial drivers will likely need to provide a copy of this report to their employer.
Insurance companies should be notified as soon as reasonably possible after the accident. Before contacting their insurance company, individuals should carefully rehearse what they plan to say so as not to give more information than what is actually needed. Even seemingly innocent statements could be misconstrued and later used to shift blame for the accident to avoid paying. Some things to keep in mind when talking with insurance adjustors are:
- Stick strictly to the facts and do not try to “fill in” missing pieces of information
- Do not provide more information than what is asked for
- Avoid making “small talk” with the adjustor, as this is a tool used to get people to let their guard down
- Refuse to allow the conversation to be recorded
- Do not agree to a settlement immediately. Insurance adjustors tend to give lowball offers in the beginning, which may not adequately cover all losses
Speaking with an Attorney
Just because you have insurance coverage does not mean your claim will be paid in a timely manner. Many people are surprised to discover their insurance company actually works against them after an accident, looking for “loopholes” that will allow them to deny their claim.
Often times, the only way for accident victims to recover damages is to speak with a personal injury attorney. This should be done shortly after an accident so that as much evidence as possible can be preserved. You may even speak with an attorney before talking with your insurance company, even if you are in the hospital. The sooner you take action, the greater your odds of a fair settlement are.