I was just calculating the number of claims that I have processed over the years as an advocate for my clients and I came up with 303. I have never had an auto accident until just recently. The odds caught up with me and I was rear ended while at a stop light waiting for the light to turn green. Normally, I am in a position to help my clients and walk them through the claims process. This time, I was responsible for using what I know to help myself and I wanted to share a few things that I did that could help you when the time comes that you have an accident.
My accident was low speed so I wasn’t injured however you should never take for granted that you are not injured by self diagnosis. Get checked out, make certain that there was no damage caused by whiplash or trauma. I didn’t have anyone in the car with me so there were no other individuals that I needed to check on however if there was that would have been my first duty to see to their care. And, when in doubt regarding injuries call 911.
My next step was to check on the individual that hit me to see if he was OK. Before I stepped out of the car I took my smart phone and set it to record video. You may not have a smart phone but you more than likely have a cell phone and that cell phone takes pictures so get ready to use it. Before I stepped out of the car I checked the condition of the road around me to make sure that it was safe. One of the number one causes of secondary injuries are drivers that get out of the cars on busy streets or highways and get hit. I saw that it was safe so as I stepped out of my car I began to record where my car was located at the intersection, where the vehicle was located that hit me. I also recorded the vehicles that were lined up behind us including their license plate numbers and the vehicles across the street and their license plate numbers (I did this to have a record of other drivers in the event of a need for witnesses). I stepped to the back and recorded the damage to my vehicle and recorded the other driver telling me how sorry he was for hitting me. He said that he had only looked down for a moment and that was when he ran into the back of me. He was concerned that I was injured and he said he was truly sorry and he had insurance. I recorded the exchange between us and then suggested that we move our vehicles to the side of the road to exchange information.
Once we were safely off the side of the road I took his driver’s license and his insurance ID card and I photographed them with my phone. I also took a photo of the front of his vehicle where it hit mine and license plate number. Why did I do that rather than write down the information? Because immediately after an accident your body surges with adrenalin and you are more prone to make mistakes in taking down information. A picture takes all the information at once and does not make mistakes. Take multiple photos to make certain that they all come out. I collected the other driver’s phone number and confirmed that his address was the same as what was on his insurance ID card.
Depending on the severity of the accident you should call 911 to report the accident. In the community where I was hit the police department does not respond to non-injury accidents and expects those involved to trade insurance and license information and allow the insurance companies to sort out damages and repairs. When in doubt, call 911 and report the accident.
Once I had arrived home I took detailed photos of the damage to my car. If there is any doubt at all as to who is at fault I would have immediately called my insurance carrier and reported the damage. In this case I was at a complete stop waiting for a light to change when I was hit so I rightly expected the other drivers insurance to pay for my loss. Do not wait several days to call in the claim, do it now while everything in your memory is fresh.
I uploaded the video and the photos to my computer and printed the driver’s license, insurance card and photo of the Ford Explorer that clearly showed the license plate. If you can’t transfer files from your phone to your computer you can still email them to yourself.
I called in the claim to the other driver’s insurance company and provided them with the information regarding the accident. It is important that you do not take out your frustration on the clerk or adjuster taking your information. They are only doing their job and it won’t help to be angry or threaten them. Also, it is not necessary to tell anyone that you have the whole incident on video, that is only for you to use if things go wrong.
Ultimately, the other driver’s insurance company was honorable and took care of the repair to my car. It was my right to go to the body shop of my choice and most states forbid an insurance company from requiring you to use a body shop that they recommend. The insurance company paid for a rental car so I could continue to go about my life during the repairs and you should always inquire about this. In the event that the accident is questionable as to who was the primary cause they can decline to cover a rental car and then it would be up to your own insurance company and only if you carry rental car coverage.
My car was repaired and returned to me and all worked out. I never had to use my video or detailed photos however if there had been a problem I would have provided all the data and video to my insurance agent to support my claim.
The moral of this story is to stay calm after an accident, deal with any injuries first and then record the accident completely before you move the vehicle unless remaining where you are could risk further injury and property damage. This applies to any accident whether it is a trip and fall, storm damage or a collision, record the accident to protect yourself and then put your agent to work to help you to return your life and property to pre-accident condition.