By Curt Nutter
Nobody likes to think about getting into an automobile accident, but it can happen to any driver at any time. Taking time in advance to think through the steps to follow after a car accident can help keep you and your passengers safe and simplify the process of filing an insurance claim.
Here’s what to do if you are in an accident:
- Activate your hazard lights, and place warning signs or flares to help other motorists see you.
- Contact the police, or ask someone else to do this if you cannot.
- Summon medical assistance if anyone is injured. Repeat the call after five minutes if no help arrives.
- Do not administer first aid unless you are qualified to do so.
- Make note of injuries you observe.
- Keep calm. Don’t argue. Make no statement concerning the accident to anyone except a police officer. Get the officer’s name, department and badge number.
- Be courteous, but do not accept responsibility or apologize for the accident.
- Use extreme caution when out of your vehicle at an accident scene and be mindful of traffic.
- Take scene and vehicle photos if you have a camera and can do so safely. Note and record the weather and lighting conditions.
- If another vehicle is involved, note whether headlamps or taillights are on, turn signals were in use, brake lights were working, or if there are any obvious mechanical deficiencies with the other vehicle.
- Note any problems with the accident scene, for example, a vision obstruction, a poorly placed stop sign or a malfunctioning traffic signal.
- Exchange insurance and vehicle information with the other driver. While you may need to disclose personal information to a police officer, be cautious about providing your address and phone number to the other driver. Scammers have been known to exploit fender-bender accidents to obtain personal information for identity theft. Never give your Social Security number.
- If witnesses are present or approach you, ask for a name and telephone number. Encourage them to stay until the police arrive.
- If you are driving a company-owned vehicle, report the accident to your supervisor as soon as possible. If the other driver was using his or her vehicle for business, record the employer’s name.
- Before leaving the accident scene, check to see that you have all the facts. For prompt claims help, call your agent.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners provides a WreckCheck app for iPhone