According to Forbes magazine, the average driver is involved in an accident that leads to an auto insurance claim every 17.9 years. Since car accidents are so common, we suggest arming yourself with these guidelines for how to manage yourself and those around you post-accident:
1. Check for injuries. After a collision, it’s important to make sure that you, the driver(s) and any passengers are not hurt. If someone is injured, get help right away. Call 9-1-1 if needed.
2. Get off the road. If possible, remove your car from traffic lanes and pull over to the side of the road. A stationary car in the road can cause additional accidents.
3. Stay focused. If you’re on a main thoroughfare, your accident will slow traffic and invite some unwanted attention from people passing by. Ignore the noise and focus on the tasks at hand.
4. Call the police. Reporting the accident to the police creates a record of the incident. The officer will assess the scene and converse with the involved parties before writing a police report. When you speak to the officer, answer his or her questions simply, directly and honestly. Write down the officer’s name, badge number, phone number and police report number. The police officer may give each party a small business card with this information. If the other party leaves the scene before the police officer arrives, it’s possible that the officer will refuse to write a report. In that case, ask the officer for an “Exchange Information Sheet.” You will complete and send this form to the DMV within a specified time frame to obtain information about the other driver. Contact an attorney right away to find out more your rights and what can be done when there’s no police report.
5. Gather information. Obtain as much information as possible from the other driver, such as their name, address, phone number; the make, model and year of vehicle; their license plate number; and most importantly, their insurance information). Also, get photos of the cars involved–as well as any visible injuries–as a record of the aftermath of the accident.
6. Stay on the scene. Never leave the scene of the accident without pertinent information. Even if you feel nervous, shocked or believe you are at fault, tough it out and follow these steps. If the other driver states they do not have auto insurance information and/or attempts to leave the scene, obtain readily available information: their license plate number; the make and model of their car; and photos of both vehicles. If the other driver leaves, even if they appear friendly or give you their phone number, they will be incredibly difficult to track down without details about their car.
7. Check in with the doctor. Be seen by a doctor the same day, or at the latest, the next day. If you can’t easily get to your general practitioner’s office, a walk-in clinic will work. You may not feel pain immediately after the accident, but soreness and pain can arise a day or two later.
8. Contact an attorney. In come cases an insurance company will be less than helpful and cooperative, so it’s important to first contact an attorney to find out more about your rights, prior to filing your insurance claim. Calling your insurance company to file a claim is an important step in the process, but remember that insurance companies may have goals and motivations that don’t line up with yours.
If you’ve been in an auto accident and have questions or concerns about your insurance payout, we’re here to help. Call us today at 407-781-0420 for a free consultation with Orlando personal injury attorney Jeff Badgley.