When you’re involved in an accident, dealing with the insurance companies may be the last thing you want to do, especially if you’ve suffered an injury or someone else in your vehicle has been seriously injured or even killed. But the sooner you get your insurance company on board, the less likely you’ll have problems securing payment for the many bills that are bound to start piling up. So whether you’re carted from the scene of the accident to a nearby ER or you manage to walk away from the incident, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to ensure that you receive all of the benefits you are due.
First off, you need to call the police. In some areas they may not come unless there has been an injury (in most cases, departments suffering cutbacks are simply too busy to deal with fender benders), but if you can get a police report that puts another party at fault for the accident, collecting money you are due will be a lot easier. Once the authorities have been notified and the proper first-response vehicles are on their way, you should begin to take stock of the situation. First, make sure no one in your vehicle needs immediate medical attention. If everyone is more or less okay, you can move onto other vehicles (if it is safe to do so). You’ll certainly want to collect information at the scene, and these days most people do so via cell phone. You’ll want to copy down the names, license plate numbers, and insurance information of the other driver (or drivers) involved in the accident, as well as the names and phone numbers of any witnesses that have stopped.
You should also take photos of the scene of the accident, including damage to your and other vehicles, the position of vehicles, debris and skid-marks on the road, and the road signs of cross streets. Finally, you should take a moment to record your own recounting of the accident while the memory and details are fresh in your mind, and ask if other people in your car and witnesses at the scene will do the same. All of this evidence can be useful to your insurance company, particularly if the police fail to show up, or worse, fail to assign blame in the accident.
Now it’s time to actually call your insurance agent. You need to let your provider know immediately that you have been in an accident so that you can get the wheels turning (so to speak) on any funds or concessions that may be coming your way. For one thing, your insurance agent will have to interface with other insurance providers involved in order to obtain information on what will be covered. For example, the other party’s insurance plan may only cover damage to your car or medical bills. But if you need a rental car until yours is fixed, you might be paying out of pocket. In truth, you may have to pay for repairs up front anyway and wait for reimbursement. Either way, you want to start the process as quickly as possible so that you can get your life back to normal after an accident.
Sarah Danielson writes for www.HowellandChristmas.com, a Charleston auto accident lawyer.