We have all been there. Whether it was a simple parking lot fender bender, getting rear-ended at a stoplight, or a 5-car pile-up on the highway, most people on the road have experienced some kind of car crash in their lives. The car insurance industry estimates that the average driver will file a claim for a collision about once every 17.9 years. Over the course of a typical long, driving lifetime, the average driver should experience a total of three to four car accidents. Knowing the likelihood that one of these traumatic experiences is going to occur in your lifetime, it is important to know exactly what to do, as well as what not to do, once you have been involved in a car accident.
Below are six separate measures that every driver should take to make sure that their claim is handled properly:
1. Check for Injuries
If you or anyone else at the scene is clearly injured in a car accident it is best to call 911 and alert emergency medical personnel to the situation. However, an injury from a car wreck can come in all different shapes and degrees of severity and may not even manifest itself until hours or days after the accident has occurred. If you are asked at the scene if you are injured, but you are not sure or are still dazed from the accident, a completely legitimate response is to say, “I don’t know.” Remember, anything that you say or any actions that you take after a car accident could be used against you during the pendency of your insurance claim.
2. Contact Police (and Get a Police Report)
Even when an accident is seemingly minor, it is important to get the authorities involved. Depending on the severity of the accident, officers may come to the scene of the accident to fill out a report or you may have to travel to the local police precinct and fill out a report to make sure the crash is documented. Insurance companies can use the lack of a police report to question how the accident occurred or deny your auto claim entirely. It is also imperative to make sure that the information in the report is as accurate as possible and that you keep a copy for your records in case you end up in court.
In Indiana Crash Reports are available on www.buycrash.com for a cost of $12.00, our office will obtain the reports for our clients.
3. Document the Accident
Unless you are seriously hurt, you should begin taking pictures at the scene of the cars involved in the accident, any damages, the positioning of the cars, skid marks around the area, injuries, as well as stop lights, intersection signs, lane markings, trees, as well as anything you believe contributed to the crash. The more pictures and documentation, the easier it will be for you to relate how the crash occurred to your insurer and potentially your lawyer if the accident goes to court, especially if the other side is disputing liability. It is scientifically proven that two people will remember certain events at least slightly differently depending on their perception, so the more pictures and documentation available after the crash will make it easier to establish exactly what happened. Many insurance companies offer their insured(s) apps where they can do things like document the crash, take photographs, witness information and get all the information that you need.
4. Exchange Information with the Other Driver
Even if the other driver says they do not want to get their insurance company involved, you should insist that both sides exchange information. Make sure to write down their name, address, phone number, birthday, insurance carrier, policy number, the make, model, and license plate number of their vehicle. It is also a good idea to document any witnesses to the event and get their contact information in case you need their account later.
5. Call Your Insurance Carrier
If able, you should try to call your insurance carrier from the scene of the accident. They will be able to tell you what exactly to do, as well as what not to do, such as admit fault for the accident. Most auto insurance policies require that you alert the carrier as soon as possible following the crash, so it is important to get this information to the insurer fast to avoid potential policy coverage issues.
***Note: Following an accident, it is important for you to not discuss in detail the accident with the other driver’s insurance company, especially if they are suggesting you are at fault for the accident. In that situation, it is best to hire an attorney (see below) to fully represent your rights and to deal with the other driver’s insurance carrier.
6. Talk to a Lawyer
A wise person once said that every member of our society will say they cannot stand lawyers right up until the moment they need one. If you feel that you have been injured in an automobile accident the best course of action to make sure you are adequately protected is to hire an attorney to deal with the insurance companies. We here at The Law Offices of William W. Hurst understand that hiring an attorney following a car accident can be an exhausting process, but it is a decision that could mean the difference between achieving adequate compensation for you and your family or having to pay for a mountain of medical bills out of your own pocket. For a free consultation on your rights and obligations following a car accident, call 317-636-0808.