If you have ever been in a car accident, you understand how overwhelming it can be. The accident may leave you feeling disoriented and the claims process might feel intimidating at times. Amidst the sea of emotions you may experience, it is important that you handle the aftermath of a loss correctly. We’ve compiled a list of ten tips to help guide you through the “do’s and don’ts” at the scene of an accident and during the claims process. These tips will not only help protect you at the time of a loss, but they will help to ensure that your claim is settled as quickly and fairly as possible.
While it may be tempting to post photos or your emotions on social media following an accident, it is best to keep those details off the internet. It is important to understand that insurance companies will seek every opportunity to deny or minimize the amount of money paid out in an injury claim. Defense attorneys have the right to access your public media accounts and any information you have shared including your conversations with others and even local check-in’s can be used against you.
2) Don’t fail to report your crash to your own insurance company
Regardless of whom is at fault, you should ALWAYS report any accident you are involved in to your insurance company. Part of your insurance contract provides for defense and investigation of a claim to ensure that your claim is handled quickly and that you receive proper reimbursement for damages.
3) Never apologize at the scene of the crash
While it may be human nature to be polite and offer apologies at the time of an accident, an apology is often interpreted as admission of fault. The adjustment process often involves compiling statements, photos or drawings of the accident site, police reports, and physical damage reports to determine “fault”. If you feel compelled to exchange niceties, simply ask if the other party is injured.
4) Don’t give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster
Insurance adjustors may request a recorded statement. Adjustors are trained to ask questions in such a way that they can minimize fault for the party they represent. It can feel like a police interrogation at times and the simplest information could be misinterpreted or used to lessen your claim.
5) Never leave the scene
Fleeing the scene of an accident is a chargeable offense and can immediately imply liability for an accident. Regardless of fault, remaining at the scene of an accident can provide you with the opportunity to talk to witnesses and gather information for your claim. By leaving the scene of an accident you reduce your chances of being able to make a claim against the other driver. The ONLY time it is advisable to leave a scene of an accident is if the scene is unsafe, to call for help or to report an accident. It is important to remain near the accident site until authorities and/or paramedics arrive.
6) Never forget to call 911
While it is acceptable in some situations (depending on state and local laws) to exchange insurance information after an accident and move on your merry way, it is important to remember that a police report is a neutral third-party document that may later help you in resolving a claim.
7) Don’t lose your temper
It is not uncommon to feel angry after an accident. However, it is important to remain calm. Kicking tires, slamming doors and yelling may feel appropriate at the time, but it may also provoke the other party, making a bad situation worse. Additionally, this type of behavior may be viewed as an attempt to intimidate or threaten the other party which will only make the situation more difficult for you. If the other party is hostile or belligerent, simply call 911 and wait in your car for an officer to respond.
8) Don’t forget to document everything you can
Although you may be shaken up after an accident it is important to document as many details about the accident as possible, to help you claims process. Notes will improve your memory’s accuracy after the accident. Important details to note include:
– Who was driving
– What happened leading up to the accident
– Road conditions
– Any distractions (talking or texting on a cell phone, adjusting radio, etc.)
– Other driver’s name and insurance information
– Any statements the other driver may have made
– Photos of crash scene, vehicle damages, debris and license plate numbers
9) Don’t neglect the aftermath
While an accident is often traumatic and stressful, it is critical that you follow up appropriately after a claim. If you are injured, it is important to see a doctor right away. Often, the initial shock of an accident prevents us from realizing we have been injured, so it is a good idea to have a medical examination completed right away. If you have sustained injuries, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer if you later need defense to ensure that all medical costs are paid. It is important to report a claim to your insurance company as soon as possible. Many companies have restrictions relating to the amount of time you can report a claim, so it is important to do so as quickly as possible.
10) Don’t settle too quickly
Your claim may reach the point where the insurance companies wish to settle a claim. Insurance companies want to settle for the least amount of money possible. It is important to consider expenses, loss of work, damages to your property and any medical bills you may have or may be faced with in the future. If you have an attorney representing you, it is important to provide him with any information pertaining to any settlement offers received and let them speak on your behalf.
Automobile accidents vary from one situation to the next but knowing what to expect and being educated about what you should do before an accident occurs can make the process easier. It is always a good idea to discuss how your insurance company handles the claims process with a licensed insurance representative when taking out a policy and reviewing these details annually with your agent.