According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 5.25 million drivers get into some sort of traffic accident annually. Statistically, motor vehicle accidents occur somewhere in the world every minute. During a five-year period, the NHTSA reported that 25% of the driving population had encountered or were involved in some sort of car crash. Given those statistics, it’s likely that almost everyone will be involved in some sort of collision in their lifetime, so it is definitely a wise idea to ensure that you and your family are prepared.
Prepare Your Car Ahead of Time
In case of an accident or an emergency, it’s important to have the following items in your vehicle:
- Emergency kit. Preferably, this kit should be somewhere easily accessible like the glove compartment. There are a few companies on the market that offer comprehensive kits you can keep in your car for emergencies. These kits include a flashlight, reusable camera, and accident documentation for as little as $20. These kits are an easy solution to prepare you for a future car collision.
- Cell phone. Most people have a cell phone, but it’s especially important that the driver of the vehicle carry one for emergency situations. If your cell phone has a camera, you can use it to photograph the damaged vehicles at the scene of the accident.
- Pen and notepad. These can help ensure a way to quickly jot down critical information about the accident.
- Card with health information. This card can help if there’s a medical emergency. It may cite any medical allergies or preexisting conditions that could require immediate attention from first responders at the accident.
- Roadside warning equipment. As an extra precaution, keep a set of cones, warning triangles, or emergency flares in the trunk of the vehicle to give advanced warning to other drivers on the road who are approaching the accident.
Know Your Insurance Policy
For peace of mind, you should always know exactly what type of insurance policy you are paying for, so you are aware of what damages your insurance company will cover for you. Being knowledgeable of your policy ahead of time makes the process of exchanging information much easier after an accident, since you already know the details of your own policy. It is best to be aware of whether or not your insurance company will cover things like a rental car or a tow truck that can transport your vehicle from the scene of the accident. Knowing in advance that, for only a few extra dollars a month, you’ve paid for this type of transportation may give you some peace of mind and help you get on with your day.
Paying for the Damage to Your Car
Another major decision people face after accidents is figuring out who pays for the damage done to the vehicles. In some situations, both drivers agree that the damage is minimal and not worth the trouble of going through insurance companies. Although this may seem like an easy solution at the time, it can end up backfiring if the other person involved decides the repair bills are too high once an estimate from the mechanic is conducted. At this point, some time has gone by, and your insurance company will have a much more difficult time piecing together what happened on the day of the accident.
It is always a good idea to report the accident to your insurance company. It is hard to tell whether or not the other driver will change his mind and report the accident to his insurance company at a later date. This could potentially leave you liable since you never made a claim with your company in the first place. The other driver involved can even claim injuries a few days after the incident, forcing your insurance company to pay for the extra medical bills and inevitably raising your monthly rates. You could even end up in court dealing with a lawsuit that could have easily been prevented.
In order to avoid any further complications down the road, it’s best to make sure that your insurance company has your version of the incident as early as possible. In some situations, the damage is so minimal that your insurance rates will not increase since the costs did not pass a predetermined amount set by the insurance company. Filing a claim with your insurance company will save you a lot of grief. It’s best to let them deal with the frustrating details of the accident.
What to Do at the Scene of the Car Accident
If you have ever been in an accident or know someone who has experienced one, you should be well aware of the nerve-racking feelings that go along with it. Accidents can be very emotional situations, and you may not be able to think very clearly after being involved in one. But there are things you need to do at the scene to protect your rights and ensure fair compensation if you need to file a claim.
If you aren’t seriously injured after the accident, take a few moments to catch your breath and relax. Dealing with the aftermath of a car collision will be a lot less stressful if you don’t let your emotions get the best of you. If you or someone in the vehicle is injured and it is an emergency, immediately call 911 and explain the situation. Tell the dispatcher who it is that’s injured, what type of injury, and where you are. Stay on the line with emergency personnel until directed to hang up.
Know What to Do With Your Car
For accidents that did not result in any serious injuries, move the car to the side of the road to prevent any further damage to your vehicle or the passengers inside of it. Leaving a car parked in the middle of a busy road could cause another collision with the vehicle or create a traffic jam. If you would still like emergency personnel to come to the scene of the accident and mediate the situation, they may come to assist in whatever way they can. If for some reason the car cannot be moved, the passengers and driver should stay inside of the vehicle with their seat belts securely fastened until emergency personnel arrive. Make sure to turn on the hazard lights, and if the vehicle is stopped in a safe area, set out warning flares, cones, or signs.
Exchange Information With the Other Driver
After ensuring that everyone in the vehicle is safe and it is okay to leave the vehicle, the driver should communicate with the other person involved in the accident and exchange information. Both drivers should exchange:
- Phone numbers
- Names of insurance companies
- Policy numbers
- License plate numbers
It is also beneficial to take down a brief description of the car such as its make, model, color, year, as well as the exact location of the accident. If there are any witnesses at the scene of the crash, take down their contact information in case you need to argue your case. Be polite, but never tell the other driver or the police that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.
Document the Accident Scene
Once you have exchanged personal information with the other driver, you should begin to photograph and document the accident. If you have a camera on your cell phone, use it to document the damage to all of the vehicles involved. You should document the accident in order to accurately make a case with insurance companies. Documenting the scene of the accident can be one of the most beneficial pieces of evidence in your case.
In some situations, law enforcement may not respond to an accident if there are no injuries. If that is the case, drivers should file a state vehicle accident report on their own. The report can be found on the website for the Department of Motor Vehicles or at local police stations. Filing a police report will help speed up the process of filing a claim for the insurance companies involved.
Know Your Rights by Speaking to an Attorney First
Accidents seem like they have almost become an inevitable part of driving. They can be a physical and an emotional drain on those involved and leave a person with a lot of unanswered questions. By properly preparing yourself in advance for an automobile accident, you can greatly reduce your risk of being liable and speed up the process of getting your life back on track. If you have been involved in a car collision or motor vehicle accident, it’s important to call a skilled car crash attorney at the Heslin Law Firm. We offer free consultations for clients in Philadelphia