UPDATED: Oct 23, 2019
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Accident prevention is important, but it isn’t a guarantee that you will never experience a collision. You can’t control the weather, and you can’t control what other drivers choose to do on the road. Knowing what to do in the event of an accident helps drivers avoid costly and dangerous mistakes.
1. Prepare In Advance
Call your Insurance Company
Before an accident catches you off guard, familiarize yourself with your insurance company’s claim process. If you know how to file a claim and what to expect from your company, the process will go much more smoothly for you. Don’t be afraid to call and ask for information — knowing how to file a claim will make the experience a little easier on you.
Wear your Seatbelt
The most important step toward accident preparedness is wearing a seatbelt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that seat belts reduce serious injuries and deaths that result from accidents by around 50%. Contrary to popular belief, air bags are not enough to prevent serious injury.
2. Have a Plan
Move off the Road
Another way to prepare for a collision is to know how to react after the collision has taken place. If you get in a car accident and you are seriously injured, it is best to wait for emergency personnel to arrive on the scene. If you are uninjured and your vehicle is still functioning, it’s best to get out of traffic by pulling over onto a shoulder or a nearby parking area. This will prevent further accidents.
Once you have removed your vehicle from traffic, park and call 911. Be prepared to answer questions about the accident, damage, and any injuries that are on the scene. While the accident is fresh in your mind, take notes to outline your side of the story. Only check on the other drivers if it is safe for you to do so. Do not cross heavy traffic to reach other vehicles involved in the accident.
When emergency personnel arrive on the scene, they will assess the damage and help with any injuries. Police offers will takes notes for a report, which will help you submit a claim to your insurance company. Keep track of any documents they give you, as you may need to provide case numbers to file your claim.
If you get in an accident that isn’t serious, you should still notify the police. Having a police report can protect you from getting into a dispute with other drivers, which in turn can save you the effort of having to fight a faulty claim with your insurance company. Without any documents to back up your side of a disagreement, you may end up paying for damage that is not your fault.
3. Get Information from Others Involved in the Accident
If you choose not to get the police involved, make sure you exchange personal information with the other drivers involved in the accident. Proceed with caution: By not involving the police, there is little way for you to hold other driver’s accountable and there will be no accident report to corroborate your story. To ensure that you can contact the owners of other vehicles involved, write down the following information:
- Insurance company name, policy number, and the insurer’s phone number.
- Check their insurance card to make sure their policy is current and not expired.
- License plate number and driver’s license number.
- Name, address, and phone number of the other driver or drivers and of any passengers or witnesses.
Don’t skip any steps or assume the other driver will tell the truth later on; a reliable witness can be crucial to proving your case if the other driver changes their story. By getting all the above information, you’ll have them on file in the event that you want to file a claim — or if they file a claim against you.