There are so many cars on the road that it’s quite easy to see why the average American motorist is expected to be in four vehicle-related accidents in their lifetime.
Accidents on the road happen suddenly and many give no warning. Your drive home from work, the same one you’ve taken hundreds of times before, could turn into your worst nightmare in a matter of seconds because of another driver’s negligence or perhaps the weather had taken a turn and you yourself were unprepared for an icy road.
When an auto accident happens there is usually nothing you can do to avoid it – but you can make sure that you’re prepared to protect yourself when it does.
A successful insurance claim begins at the site of the crash. If you know what you’re doing at the scene, then you’ll know what to say and do afterwards. Here’s our quick guide on how you should go about making your claim and what you need to know to make your claim move as swiftly as possible.
Stop, check for injuries, call 911
If you’re involved in a traffic accident, one of the first things you should do is check with the other people involved for any injuries – then immediately call 911 to report the accident and request help.
The best you can do at this point is to help the injured as best as you can and wait until the emergency responders arrive.
Remember, drivers are required to give assistance to anybody who is injured and it is their legal responsibility to call 911 and report the incident and request necessary medical services.
What do you tell the 911 dispatcher?
When you phone 911, inform the dispatcher firstly that you have been involved in a car accident.
After this, you’ll need to tell them your location, details of any injuries and if there are any hazards in the surrounding area of the scene.
Location: This includes what road or highway you were driving on, along with what direction you are headed in and the closest intersection to you. You can also inform them of any nearby landmarks, mile markers or mailbox numbers to make your location easier to pinpoint.
Injuries: Explain to the dispatcher if anybody is injured, has been killed or thrown from their car and may be in need of rescue. You should also inform them if there is anybody still trapped inside of a car.
Hazards: You should also tell the dispatcher about any possible dangers that are at the crash site. For example, if there are any cars on fire, if there are power lines down, or if a vehicle is leaking fuel.
Cooperate with police
Officers will usually be dispatched to the scene of the incident if:
- Injuries are reported
- There are dangerous traffic conditions
- Cars need towing
- A driver has been reported as being intoxicated
The Role Of The Police
Police officers are trained to deal with accidents and investigate them in an efficient manner.
They are authorized to:
- Secure the scene of the accident
- Organize care and transport for the injured
- Gather evidence
- Determine fault
- Conduct sobriety tests
- Issue any citations given
Telling your side of the story could be beneficial to the officer on duty but they don’t have to listen to you. If you are told to wait or are given instructions to do something you should cooperate instead of arguing. Getting into an argument with a police officer will only hinder the investigation and could also cause you to be arrested.
Begin gathering evidence
Accident scenes don’t last very long and cars can be towed quickly. You should take any advantage you can get to gather as much information as you can about the accident. It is the perfect time to collect any evidence that could be critical to your insurance claim.
Any evidence that you can gather from the scene of the accident will be incredibly helpful to your insurance claim. If the accident has been caused by the other driver you will need to prove this by proving that the other person involved in the crash did something wrong or failed to drive in a responsible manner.
When in an accident you should provide the following details to the other driver(s):
- Your name
- Your address
- Your number
- The make, model and year of your car
- The last four digits of your car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
- Your insurance information
If you don’t get a chance to give this information to the other people involved, but you have given it to an investigating officer, they will deliver the required information for you.
Where do you start?
Start by getting this information from the driver of the car:
- Name, address, and phone number
- Vehicle registration information
- Driver’s license information
- Insurance information
You can also get a lot of information for your case from passengers, the vehicles involved and by providing visuals.
Passengers: Passengers don’t have to give you their information if they don’t want to – but you can still take some basic details about them. For example, how many people were in the other car, their approximate ages, what they looked like and how they were acting. If you do get a passenger that will talk to you, try to get their name, address, number, and any other relevant contact information.
Vehicles: The best information you can get from the other vehicle is the:
- Make, model and year
- License plate number
- The last four digits of the VIN
It is a legal requirement from the other driver to provide you with this information.
Diagrams: By making a diagram of the accident you can show the position of the car before and after the crash. This will show the direction in which you were heading as well as any other conditions that could have attributed to the crash.
Photographs And Videos: Taking videos and photographs of the site is a helpful contribution to your insurance claim. By walking around the crash site and taking photos from various angles the fault and cause of the crash can be identified easily.
Footage may show important details of the vehicles and surrounding area that may have been missed originally. It will also solidify your claim if one of the people involved decides to change their story down the line.
Witnesses: Like passengers, witnesses don’t have to talk to you – but you can try and speak to people who were present during the time of the crash and ask if they saw anything that could help you with your claim. Be sure to ask them to write down their statement and to date and sign it so it can’t be changed at a later date.
Notify your insurance firm
Your car insurance policy is a legally binding contract between you and your insurance provider.
Your insurance company is there to defend you when you’ve been in an accident but in order for them to do their job you must first do yours. You have an obligation to tell your insurance provider when you’ve been in a traffic accident – whether it was your fault or not. They are still there to protect you from claims. For example, if the other driver is uninsured or decides to blame you for the crash you will still need your insurance provider to work with you.
Your insurance company will be at an awful disadvantage if you don’t make them aware of any accidents you might have been involved in. Not only will this failure to inform your insurance provider risk putting your claim in danger, it is a breach of your contract and will cause your premiums to rise and they might even cancel your insurance policy altogether.
After all that, it’s time to start the actual claim. Depending on your accident (and depending on the other party in it), your claim could go quickly and smoothly, or it could drag on and involve heading to court.
It’s best to seek legal advice before you begin the claim process. An experienced car accident attorney can give you an outline of the personal injury claims process and what to expect from your claim.
Here at Moye Law Firm, we have decades of experience in helping people get the justice they deserve. If you’ve been in an accident recently and you need some legal advice to help you get through your claim, reach out and give us a call.