What to Do When You've Had a Car Accident
If you're reading this, chances are you've either just been in an accident or you're making sure you're prepared should the worst ever happen. Good call.
When it comes to a car accident, it's important you know the following information: what to do at the scene, how to get your car where you need it to be, the ins and outs of insurance companies, and what to do if you're injured.
Here's some useful information to try to help you come out unscathed.
What to do at the scene
First things first, remain calm. Assuming you and everyone is okay, it's not the end of the world and getting into a panic or an argument with another driver will only cause stress and complicate matters. Take a deep breath, put your hazard lights on and get out of the car if it's safe to do so.
Once you're talking with the other driver, don't admit fault: it's important the insurer (who will conduct a full investigation) is the entity to make that call and they'll take into account things you may not have considered.
Instead, focus on getting the details of any drivers involved in the accident – names, addresses, insurance and car registration numbers, vehicle make, model and colour, driver's licence number and any other important info that relates to the accident. The contact details of anyone who witnessed the accident is also very important.
Then, use your phone to get photographs of the location, position and damage to any cars. In the event of a dispute, these can be very useful to have.
You might also need to contact the police and/or an ambulance, especially if there are injuries or there's significant damage to property, such as cars, buildings or street signs. You should also call the police if anyone refuses to exchange their details with you, if you feel unsafe, the accident is causing a traffic hazard, or if you believe there may be drugs or alcohol involved.
To tow or not to tow
Before driving away from the scene, it's absolutely vital that you check your vehicle to make sure it's roadworthy. This means giving it a thorough once over: including checks of lights, fluids, engine damage, bodywork issues, tyres, the windscreen and any other safety related systems.
If an airbag has been deployed, do not drive the car. The same goes if the windscreen is smashed or the seatbelts are no longer working.
In fact, if you have any doubts at all about the safety of your vehicle, call your insurance company to organise a tow truck to collect your car.
Dealing with insurance companies
First and foremost, it's important to understand that you don't have to involve your insurer if the damage to all vehicles is less than your excess. These days, that's not likely to be the case. To establish that, start off by getting two or three quotes from panel beaters, although your insurance company may also have some recommendations.
They'll take you through their process to get you compensated, depending on the level of cover you have.
At this stage, a lot of people tend to worry about whether or not the other driver was insured. Unfortunately, drivers are uninsured from time to time, but as annoying as this is, you don't necessarily have to end up entirely out of pocket.
Injuries and pain
If you have been injured in the accident, attend a hospital or your General Practitioner, and report it to police. They should also be able to assist in referring you to make a claim from your state or territory authority.