Accidents are something we don’t really think about until they happen, but there’s a lot that can go wrong after impact that can affect the liability of the drivers, the amount of damage to the vehicles and even the health of all those involved. Here’s what you need to know to keep everyone safe and give you some legal protections when it comes time for collision repair.
1. Assess the Situation
Take a moment to calm down and figure out what needs to be done. You can’t leave the accident site, but you still need to be in a safe location. That means staying out of traffic and away from hazards like fires and broken glass. Unless there’s an immediate danger, it’s best to stay in your vehicle with your seat belt buckled.
2. Check to Make Sure that Everyone Involved in the Accident is OK
If there are injuries, call 911. Only move injured people if absolutely necessary. If the accident was a minor fender bender, move the vehicles off of the road so that traffic can go by.
3. Contact the Police
If you didn’t need to contact emergency services, you should still contact the police. A police report can give you and your insurance company leverage when going after someone who hasn’t paid for damages, particularly if they’ve used falsified insurance information.
In many states, police won’t respond if there hasn’t been an injury. In these cases, you’ll need to file an accident report. These reports are available at police offices, and can usually be downloaded from the DMV website. In Wisconsin, you are legally required to file one of these reports if the accident resulted in an injury, there was over $1,000 worth of property damage, or there was over $200 worth of government property damage outside of government-owned vehicles, even if no one in the accident is seeking compensation. Other states have similar rules.
4. Gather Information
While you’re still at the scene, start collecting data that will be handy when you make a claim and if the accident is brought into court. Here are some questions you should be answering:
- Where was the accident, and when?
- Who was involved in the accident?
- What other vehicles were involved in the accident?
- What insurance coverage is on the vehicles in the accident?
- Were there any witnesses? How can they be contacted?
- Were there any injuries? How were they treated?
If you have a camera handy, whether a stand-alone device or the one on your smartphone, take pictures. Along with the accident itself, take photos of the cars’ license plates, street signs and landmarks to help establish the vehicles involved and the location.
If you hit a car with no one inside, you still must make an effort to find the owner and give them your information so they can make a claim. If the owner can’t be found, you still need to leave a note with your information on their vehicle.
5. Contact your Insurance Company
The sooner this can be done, the better – preferably while you’re still at the scene of the accident. This lets the agency start the paperwork to get a claim. You can contact your agent, or call the number on your insurance card which should connect you with the company’s claims department. They’ll want to know most of the details you gathered above; make sure to confirm this information before finishing the call. They’ll probably want to inspect the car for damage. Keep in mind, in Wisconsin, you’re only required to get one estimate for repairs and you can have your car fixed wherever you choose.
6. Don’t Say Too Much
The accident may have been your fault, or at least appeared that way, but saying the accident was your fault is an admission of guilt. This can make you liable for damage, even if you didn’t necessarily cause it. Leave it up to police and courts to determine who is at fault.
Accidents can happen at any time, and they’re never pleasant. Make the experience as painless as possible by finding a reliable auto body shop that will help you get back on the road without added stress. Our certified technicians offer great work at a great price. What’s not to like? Give us a call or come by today for a free quote!