When Accidents Happen: What to do after a car crash

It’s no fun. Your car has been dinged, dented or seriously damaged by another driver.

So what do you do? Call the police? Then what?

With hundreds of crashes happening every hour in the United States, causing an estimated 1.5 million injuries and $230 billion in damage, it’s important to know what to do if you find yourself in a fender bender, or worse, on the nation’s roads.

Knowing whose insurance company to call, for example, could save you from having to pay a deductible. Or knowing that police want you to drive to the nearest exit after knocking bumpers on the freeway might avoid putting an officer at risk when responding to the crash.

So here are some pointers to help you cope with a collision.

Did you know?

  • A car crash happened once every six seconds in 2009, amounting to 5.5 million collisions by year’s end. Most of those accidents caused only damage. But 1.5 million people were hurt and 30,797 died.
  • Car accidents are costly. The annual price tag for collisions runs about $230.6 billion.
  • The nation’s worst city for car crashes is Baltimore, Md., where the average driver is involved in a collision once every 5.3 years, according to a recent analysis. That’s nearly twice the national average of 10 years. Drivers are least likely to crash in Fort Collins, Colo., where motorists typically go 14 years between crashes.

What to do if you’re in a crash:

  1. Take a deep breath and then check for injuries. If you suspect that you or anyone else involved in the crash are hurt, call an ambulance. Otherwise, turn on your hazard lights and notify police about the accident.
  2. If your vehicle is in a dangerous position where it might cause a traffic hazard, move it to a safe location. This may include a parking lot or a highway off-ramp. On a freeway, officers encourage drivers involved in minor collisions to take the nearest exit to avoid putting themselves and officers at risk. However, if you can’t move your vehicle, get your hazard lights flashing. Road flares also are effective.
  3. While you are waiting for police to arrive, get your driver’s license and proof of insurance ready.
  4. Jot down some preliminary information about the other driver. Although police likely will provide much of this information for you, it would be wise to get the other driver’s name and phone number, for instance. Include the name of his or her insurance company with a policy number and information about how to contact the company. Note the driver’s license plate number, plus the vehicle’s make, model and year.
  5. Avoid discussing details about the crash with the other driver. Steer clear of any conversation that may imply fault in the crash.
  6. Take immediate notes about the crash. Draw a diagram, if necessary, to help you reconstruct the accident scene when police ask for your side of the story.
  7. Once the police officer determines fault in the crash, he or she will write a police report. Make sure to get the accident claim number. This will be a must-have number in the weeks to come as you are trying to repair the damage.
  8. Now comes the call to the insurance company. If you caused the crash, call your insurance company. If not, call the other driver’s company to avoid paying a deductible. Whichever insurance company you call, expect more questions about the crash. The company also will ask you questions about what you want done with the vehicle. Don’t be afraid to suggest a particular body shop or mechanic to do the work.
  9. An insurance adjuster will come look at your vehicle shortly after the collision to assess the damage. Remember, it’s still your vehicle. You have the right to have the job completed to your liking. If the insurance company proposes a fix you don’t approve of, you have the right to say no and have it done to your standard.
  10. At last, you can return to the road. It may feel a little awkward driving after a collision, but you’ll work back into it, slowly.

Source: Autotrader

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