Thursday, August 22, 2013

What To Do In the First 24 Hours After An Accident

Car accidents are costing Americans a lot of money each year. From fender benders where everyone walks away with no injuries or visible vehicle damage to major accidents where cars are totaled, Triple A estimates the annual cost of crashes at $166.7 billion. According the US Census Bureau, there were nearly 11 million automobile accidents in 2009. If you're involved in a car crash, what you do during and immediately after the accident is critically important. Here's how to take the right steps to protect your health, safety and your investment in your car.

Prioritize your safety on the accident scene

Car accidents are often unexpected and stressful. Keep calm, and take a deep breath. Be aware of injuries, and confirm that everyone in your vehicle is safe and unhurt. Confirm that the other driver and any passengers in their vehicle are safe. If there's any doubt, call an ambulance for help. Use your hazard lights, cones or flares to signal the accident to other drivers. If an accident is minor and both parties agree, move your cars to the side of the road.

Call 911 to report the accident

When an accident occurs, call the police. Never leave the scene of a car accident - this is potentially a criminal offense. The police may not respond if an accident is minor. But calling to report the accident will help simplify the claims process and make sure clear documentation that the incident occurred.

Further, avoid any kind of "off board" agreement with the other driver to forget the incident or pay damages out-of-pocket. USA Today estimates that as many as 1 in 7 drivers may be uninsured. Damage to your vehicle or even injuries may not always be immediately visible. Avoid surprise claims or lawsuits by dealing with accidents through official channels.

Focus on the facts and start the documentation process

It's important to stay focused on the facts. Don't lose your temper, be rude, or fling blame. Instead, focus on gathering as much information and documentation as possible. Always get the license plate number of the other car immediately. Exchange basic data with the other driver, including name and address, license number, and insurance information. If there's any question of safety due to road rage or accident location, wait for the police's arrival to collect that information.

If possible, get the names and contact information of any witnesses that can help prove what happened. It's fine to be polite to the other person, but don't admit guilt. Limit longer conversations about what happened to discussions with the police and your insurance agent. If you have a camera, you can take pictures of vehicle damage or the crash scene.

Contact your insurance agent right away

Many car insurance companies have time limitations on when an accident can be reported. Get that process started as quickly as possible with a call to your insurance agency or insurance company. Be ready to share all the details you've collected above, including witness names, contact information for the other driver and copies of any police or accident report. Some drivers are tempted to forego reporting accidents and pay for repairs out-of-pocket. In any accident involving another vehicle, it's always the smartest choice to report the incident.

Choosing an auto body repair shop

Depending on whose fault the accident was, repairing car damage can be covered by either or both car insurance companies. Once your accident has been reported, you'll most likely have to speak to an insurance adjuster. The process involves giving a statement and having your car inspected. It's important to remember that an insurance adjuster, if they're working for the other driver's company, may not be on your side.

You have the choice to select what auto body shop you'd like to deal with, not the insurance company. You may also be entitled to a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired. When selecting an auto repair shop, remember that many collision repair shops will help work with the insurance company as your advocate saving you time and stress and making sure you get the thorough and quality of repairs you need.

If you're on the road, it's a strong possibility that you'll be in an auto accident at one time or another. Taking the right steps at the scene of the accident and in the hours immediately following puts you in the best position to make a quick recovery on all fronts.

Albert Westbrook is a writer focusing on article of interest to consumers of goods and services. He recommends visiting Dent Master if you are in the Salt Lake City, Utah area or surrounding communities.
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