Being involved in a car accident can be scary at best and devastating at worst. It can be especially difficult if you are the one who caused the accident. Even the most careful drivers can make mistakes. On average, drivers face around five accidents within their lifetime. If you have never caused an accident with another driver before, it is important to know what steps you should take.
Make Sure Everyone is Uninjured
The most important thing when it comes to a car accident is making sure everyone is safe and uninjured. Check yourself over and make sure any passengers with you are safe. If any of you are injured, call emergency services to receive medical attention immediately. It is important not to move severely injured parties unless absolutely necessary, such as if the vehicle is on fire.
Check on the other driver(s) and passengers as well.
When it comes to an accident, you will likely need to file an auto insurance claim. If you cause an accident, your auto insurance will likely need to cover the injuries and damages you cause to other parties. This is why liability insurance is required in most states for drivers to operate legally.
It is important to provide the other victims of the crash with your insurance information so that they can file a claim with your insurer and receive compensation. In cases where fault is unsure, you may also want information from the other drivers. Insurance companies will generally communicate to calculate fault and compensation.
Important information to exchange include:
- Full name and contact information (phone number, email, etc.)
- Insurance company
- Insurance policy number
- Driver’s license
- License plate number
- Type, color and model of vehicle
- Location of accident
Even in small fender benders, you may want professional involvement. Filing a police report can help you determine fault for your insurance provider. It can also help connecting with other emergency services such as an ambulance or fire truck in case of injuries or fire potential.
Document the Accident
You will want to fully document the entire accident and exchanges you have with the other driver(s) and police officers, including being able to identify the police assisting you if necessary. Ask the officers about receiving a copy of the accident report for your records. You will want this in case further issues or lawsuits arise due to the incident later. Having as much information as possible can protect you in the future.
Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage
Liability coverage under car insurance is what pays for injuries and damages you may cause to someone else while operating your vehicle. It is crucial that you carry the right amount of insurance, which may be beyond the minimum required coverages.
However, you are legally required only to carry a certain amount of liability insurance.
In Virginia, for example, drivers are required to carry at least:
- $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 in bodily injury liability per accident
- $20,000 in property damage liability
You can have higher rates of liability, but you cannot change them during an open claim. For example, say you cause an accident which results in $30,000 in bodily injuries for the other party. If your liability policy only covers $25,000, you will be left with the remaining costs. While you can change your liability coverage, changing it with an open claim will not affect the current claim.
Keep in mind that driving without insurance—and especially causing an accident without insurance—can result in legal repercussions such as license suspension, fines, vehicle impoundments and even jail time.
File a Claim
Of course, after everything with the initial accident is handled and everyone has received the medical attention they need, it is time to call your insurance agent. It is important to file a claim as soon as possible, or at the very least notify your insurer of the accident. While your rates will go up after an accident, hiding the incident can cause problems in the future if you have to file a claim at a later date for an accident they were unaware of or if you are caught lying about an accident.
Filing a claim is as easy as calling your insurance agent and providing them the information they ask for, which you should already have documented. They will typically ask for details of the incident such as when, where and how it happened. Once a claim is filed, the insurance provider will send a claims adjuster to investigate your claim and calculate how much compensation you may receive due to the damage and your insurance policy limits.
The safety of everyone involved in an accident is the most important thing, so be sure to act quickly when it comes to a car accident.