Auto accidents are never planned and never a pleasant experience.  However, the stress due to an auto accident can be minimized by knowing how to prepare for this little life hiccup and also knowing what to do when an accident happens.  Here are a few steps that can help:

Before an Accident

  • Double-check your auto insurance policy – Everyone has seen those popular commercials these days about checking your insurance for discounts, but more important than that is checking to see exactly what your insurance covers like the policy limits to damage to your vehicle and the other vehicle, deductibles, and personal injury protection (PIP).  PIP covers any medical expenses you incur up to a certain limit regardless of who was at fault in the accident.  This can usually be added to any auto policy for a nominal premium increase, but it is the best additional coverage to have for peace of mind.
  • Have a means to document an accident – Most of us these days carry around smartphones capable of doing many things.  To document an accident, you will need a camera, somewhere to take notes, and a list of details to record.  Many of the major insurance carriers now have apps that can handle this for you as well as start your auto claim.  Get familiar with your equipment beforehand so when something happens, you will know exactly what to do.
  • Know your city – In general, as a driver, it is good to have towing coverage, know your local hospitals and urgent care centers, and decide who you will call in case of an emergency so that when the stress of an accident kicks in, panic does not follow.
  • Buckle up – It should be a given with all of the information out there and videos of people flying out of their vehicles during an accident, but please buckle up at all times when driving.  This includes all passengers in the vehicle, and yes, the back seat as well. This also includes the last few hundred yards before you pull in to your driveway and from the moment you turn your car on.  All modern vehicles are designed for the impact to a person’s body to be minimized, but they are all based on the person being buckled up with a proper seat belt.

After an Accident

  • Check yourself – When an accident happens, always check yourself first to make sure you are able to move.  If your neck or head are very sore or you feel pain and numbness in your arms or legs, don’t move.
  • Check others – If you are able to move safely, check the condition of others in your own vehicle if you have passengers.  Then, if your car door opens, leave the car with your cell phone and keys and check the condition of the other driver and their passengers.  Always be courteous even if they caused the accident.  Most people don’t cause accidents on purpose, so everyone is going to be a little stressed and frustrated.
  • Call the police – It is important to call an emergency number early to expedite the arrival of the police.  Let them know if there are any injuries so they can also call for paramedics.  Even if you don’t seem injured, sometimes it is good to get checked by the paramedics just in case.  When the officer arrives, calmly explain what happened from your point of view and make sure they do an incident report and you get a report number or a copy of the report.  Sometimes, the officer will determine one person to be at fault and give a traffic citation.  Sometimes they will just file the report and let the two insurance companies decide who was at fault.  Usually, you have to contact the police station and follow up on getting a copy of the report a couple of days later once they have prepared it.
  • Get pictures – If you are, not in a safe place, see if you can move your vehicle to a safe place if it turns on and drives.  If not, leave it there and move to the safest place possible away from traffic.  If traffic is slow and the cars are safe, use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene, your vehicle, and the other vehicle.  Get far away shots that show everything and also get close up shots of any area damaged on both vehicles.  This will help prevent any false vehicle damage claims or bad estimates by body shops.
  • Exchange insurance information – Using your camera again, you can take a picture of the front and back of the other driver’s insurance card as well as a picture of their driver’s license if they allow it.  Make sure you get their full name, address, and phone number as well if all are not on the insurance card.
  • File a claim – Call your insurance agent or the toll free number for your auto policy to start a claim.  They will usually ask a few questions and then give you a claim number and the name of a claim adjuster who will process your claim.
  • Seek medical attention – Depending on the severity of your injuries, you should either go to an urgent care center or hospital or go to a local chiropractor that handles personal injury cases.  The sooner you get checked and get treatment, the better the outcome will be.  Remember that sometimes the stress of the accident will mask the pain and a few days later may be when you first start experiencing problems, so get checked sooner than later for peace of mind and to begin any necessary therapy.
  • Get an attorney – An experienced personal injury attorney will handle every aspect of your case so you can focus on doing your therapy and getting better. Preferably choose one that is board certified in personal injury law or other related specialty.  All personal injury cases are handled on contingency so there should never be any money out of your pocket up front.

Here is to hoping that you never get into an auto accident, but if you do, following these guidelines will reduce the stress of the situation drastically…

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