Car accidents happen, and when they happen to you, it can be a headache. After a car accident in 2009, I realized that no one had ever taught me how to handle myself in that situation. You don’t want to be learning for the first time when you get in an accident.
Here’s what you need to do if it happens to you:
- Stay calm. Take deep breaths. If it was a big crash, your adrenaline is probably surging, and your heart may be beating a million miles a minute. Breathe in. Breathe out.
- Check for injuries. If you are unable to move or if you’re in pain, call 911 for an ambulance. Even if you’re not injured, NerdWallet pointed out in 2019 that calling the police is a good way to ensure you’ll have an “official report to give to your insurance company.” This is important, even in small accidents.
- Assess the situation and take yourself out of any danger.
- Document the accident. Take photos of all vehicles from all angles. Make sure you save all of the photos in a specific folder on your phone. Your smartphone will embed data with each photo so you don’t have to worry about noting the date and time on your own. Get the other driver's information: phone numbers and insurance info most importantly. This, again, would be where you might consider calling the police — even if everyone’s cooperating in the moment.
- File a claim with the insurance companies. Depending on who caused the accident, insurance companies will need to be contacted so claims can be filed. If there are conflicting statements about who caused the accident, then it is definitely in your best interest to allow the police to handle your claim. While it may be tempting to handle the accident without the insurance companies, you may be putting yourself at risk by managing the negotiations yourself. Damage costs incurred during auto accidents can also be deceiving to the untrained eye.
Once the claim has been filed and the insurance has been paid out, you may see an increase in your premium. This is normal and should be expected, but it doesn’t mean you can’t shop around for a lower rate elsewhere. This is allowed, so take advantage of it!
If it’s your first time in a car accident, your insurance company may be able to give you the benefit of the doubt. According to NerdWallet, “Your car insurance rates rates could go up significantly (50% or more, in some cases) depending on the severity of the accident and your insurance company. While some insurance companies offer accident forgiveness, which means your at-fault accident may not result in higher premiums, other companies might double your rate for the same accident.”
This is why you may be tempted to handle the costs “off the record," but even with the threat of a higher premium, it’s encouraged to go the route of file claiming to avoid being taken advantage of. Accidents happen! Keeping everything above board will save you money, time and stress in the long run.