The average driver will file a claim for collision at some point in their life—approximately every 17.9 years, according to Forbes.* When this (hopefully) rare event occurs, you may not know what to do, especially if you’ve never been in an accident before or consider yourself to be a safe driver. It’s easy to forget this information when you rarely need it. To be prepared, here is a step-by-step procedure of how to handle the situation:
1. Stay calm.
This may be difficult, but it’s one of the most important things to do. Immediately upon collision, it’s common to experience feelings of panic, shock, anger, guilt, or anxiety, which can hinder your ability to think clearly. If you find yourself feeling these emotions, take slow deep breaths, calmly assess the situation, and take a few seconds to gather your thoughts. When you remain calm, you are more likely to remember what to do and take rational, careful actions.
2. Move your vehicle to a safe location.
If the accident is minor and you are able to, move your vehicle to a location where you can safely exit your vehicle, ideally where you won’t be blocking traffic (but do not leave the scene of the accident). If you’re on the road, make sure to turn on your hazard lights to let other cars know to drive around you; use cones or flares if you have them.
3. Get help.
If you or anyone around you is hurt, call for medical attention immediately. Sometimes, minor symptoms may not seem like a big deal at first, but it’s best to get them checked by a healthcare professional just in case.
Whether the accident is minor or major, always call the police. A report from an officer can often help establish who is at fault. When the police get there, objectively recount what happened, but do not admit fault or assign blame. Remember to also be polite and calm in this stressful situation. Then, obtain a copy of the police report and take note of the officer’s name and badge number.
4. Collect information.
Just in case you get into situations like these, you should always carry something in your vehicle that you can take notes with, such as a pen and paper or a smartphone.
Ask to see the other driver’s license and auto insurance ID card, which will provide you with essential contact information as well as a confirmation of their identity. Then, record as many details as possible, including:
Driver and passenger names and contact information
Driver’s license numbers
License plate numbers
Make/model/year of vehicles
Insurance companies and policy numbers
Location/address of the accident
5. Document the accident.
Take photos of the scene and the damage to the vehicles involved. These will serve as photographic evidence to support your claim. If you don’t have a smartphone with you, sketch out a diagram of how the accident occurred so that you’ll remember it later.
6. File a claim.
You should begin the claims process as soon as possible after the accident. Many insurance companies allow you to make a claim online, through their mobile app, or simply over a phone call. This is when all of the information you recorded earlier will come in handy.
When you submit your claim, your agent will review your policy and let you know what is covered. You will also be asked to get a repair estimate, and you may have the option to get a rental car while your car is getting fixed. In the meantime, your insurance company will investigate the accident by reviewing your claim and contacting the other parties involved. You’ll later be notified of who is deemed at fault, what payments you may owe, and how this accident affects your insurance rate.
If you have any questions about your claim, contact your agent. They’ll be happy to clear up any confusions and help make the process as smooth as possible.