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After a Car Accident - What to Do

Even a minor car accident can be a traumatic event, leaving you stunned and confused on the road. How you respond during the moments immediately following a car accident as well in the hours and days after an accident can have a major impact on your health as well as your finances. By taking time to learn how to respond after you have a car accident, you will be better prepared to respond in the best way possible. 

Assessing Injuries and Damage

Whether you are driving alone and strike a tree or other stationary object or you are involved in a multi-vehicle pile-up, the first thing you should do is assess the damage, provided you are physically able to do so. If you are injured, you can reach for your cell phone and call for emergency medical services. If you are able to do so, assess the condition of others involved in a car accident as well as the damage done to the vehicles. Keep in mind that an accident that may leave one person uninjured may cause life-threatening injuries to another person. Call for emergency medical services if anyone has been injured in the accident, and this includes even if injuries appear minor. It may be beneficial to have emergency medical services respond to a seemingly minor accident to identify the possibility of underlying injuries that may not be immediately evident. After a car accident, adrenaline can mask the feeling of injuries. Other injuries, such as whiplash, may take several days before the effects are known. A roadside exam by emergency medical services can help to identify some of these issues. 

Remain Quiet

In the confusion that follows after an accident, it is easy to say things without thinking about the ramifications. You may blurt out things without much thought, and some of those things can be used against you if the accident escalates into a major legal issue. For example, you may tell another driver who is panicked and upset, “I should have used my blinker before turning.” This can indicate that you did something wrong that caused an accident. Simply remaining quiet on the matter is key. Only talk to police at the scene. After the accident, only talk to your insurance company about the events of the accident. 

Call the Police

Regardless of whether the other party involved in the accident wants to call the police or not, you should call police to the scene. Many insurance companies will want to see a full police report on the accident when you file a claim. Ensure that all parties remain present until the police report is completed. If another party attempts to drive away, be sure to write down their license plate number. 

Exchange Insurance information

You should always exchange insurance information at the scene of an accident if another driver was involved in a car accident. This includes if no visible damage was done to the vehicles. You may get home and realize your car frame was damaged in a seemingly minor accident, or you may realize after the fact that the accident caused you whiplash. These are just a few of the many reasons why you need to exchange insurance information with other parties when you have an accident. In addition to getting insurance information, it is helpful to jot down vehicle information like the license plate number, make and model. You can also ask to see a copy of the driver's license to write down the name, home address and driver's license number. 

When You Get Home 

After you arrive back home, you should call your insurance company to begin the claims process if damage has been done to your vehicle. Consider what your deductible is and how much damage has been done to your car. If your car is severely damaged, filing a claim may be something you don't need to think about. If you have only a small ding, filing a claim may not be in your best interest. You may first take it to a repair shop to get an estimate for repairs. If repairs are $650 and your deductible is $500, for example, you may consider paying the deductible out-of-pocket. Keep in mind that filing a claim may result in an increase in your insurance premium for years to come. If you are on the fence about whether to file a claim or not, a call into your insurance agent may reveal how your premium would be affected by filing a claim.

If You Need to File a Claim

The time frame for filing a claim will vary by insurance company, but getting the process started immediately will help you to get a rental car more quickly if this coverage is included on your policy, and it can help to get your car repaired or replaced more quickly. If your car will definitely need major repairs, you can get the claims process started immediately upon returning home. Some insurance companies offer a toll-free claims number that provides you with 7-day a week service. If you need access to a rental car immediately and your car insurance company's claims office is closed, you can consider talking to the rental car company. Many rental car companies will be happy to file a claim with your insurance company on your behalf, and this can provide you with immediate access to a rental car.

Monitoring Your Health Status

You and other passengers in your vehicle may feel fine after the accident, but you may notice health issues developing in the hours and days immediately following the accident. You should actively monitor your health status as well as the health status of passengers in your car. This is especially important if children were in your vehicle during the accident, as they may not be as aware of their health status as adults are. If you notice any unusual symptoms or pain, you should make an appointment with your doctor immediately. Some serious issues like nerve damage and internal injuries may not be immediately evident, but they can result in costly medical expenses. Getting checked by a healthcare professional quickly after an accident can help to ensure you enjoy the optimal results when filing these medical expenses in your claim. 

How you respond in the hours and days following your accident is critical to minimizing the financial and legal impact of the accident. Further, your actions can also ensure that you and others get the medical attention needed after an accident.

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