If you’ve never been in a car accident, you’re the exception rather than the rule. The average driver claims for coverage after a collision every 17 years, with each accident costing an average of $23, 450. If you’re involved in a not at fault accident, you might find those costs stacking against you if you don’t follow the correct procedures. Of course, the first step after a collision is making sure everyone involved is safe or in need of medical care. A police report must be made, even if everyone is unharmed.
Step One: Collect Evidence
Photographs of the position of the cars, skid marks, and the like tell more about the collision than you might imagine. Snap any property damage, injuries, and surrounding traffic signs, too. The at-fault driver’s negligence will need to be proved, and graphic evidence is persuasive. Even a small accident can leave you in shock, so pictures are a useful way to support your memory. If an ignored traffic sign is responsible for the accident, try to include the at fault driver’s car and the relevant sign in the same picture. You’ll also need photographs of police officers and paramedics. You’ll probably remember to take down the insurance and contact details of the at fault driver, but don’t forget about witnesses. Others’ statements are powerful scraps of evidence that, when combined with the rest of your data, fills in the patchy and hard-to-prove details that support your claim.
Step Two: Inform the At Fault Driver’s Insurer
Even a not at fault accident requires you to inform the at fault driver’s insurer. This way, any negligence on the part of the other driver will be negated. The sooner the insurer collects police reports, statements, and photographs, the more solid your case will be.
Step Three: Inform Your Insurer
Your insurance policy might have coverage for the accident, even if you’re not at fault. Collision insurance may cover repairs or offer a deductible. That said, claims could push up your premiums, so before you claim, make sure you live in a state that prohibits not at fault surcharges.
Step Four: What Not to Do
- Don’t admit you’re at fault.
- Don’t lose your temper or lay blame.
- Don’t put off getting medical advice. Collisions can cause injuries that only show symptoms much later.
- Don’t leave the accident scene, even if your car is drivable.
- Don’t negotiate with the at fault driver before you speak to your lawyer.
- Don’t procrastinate on calling a lawyer, who will be needed to advise you on your claims.
Negligence is as much a fault as any, but it can be difficult to prove, especially when the accident is caused by the negligence of an automobile manufacturer. Put on your best CSI face and gather all the evidence you can—as soon as you can, and as clearly as you can.