It’s not enough to be a careful, cautious driver (though that certainly helps); there is no immunity when you’re traveling on the road with inattentive or distracted drivers or through bad road conditions. Insurance gives you peace of mind; if you are involved in a wreck, it can help protect you against serious financial stresses.
What Now? 5 Steps to Take When You’re Involved In An Auto Accident
If you have been in a car accident, we understand how frightening it is. Knowing what to do can help you remain calm and take the steps necessary to make sure you are safe and protected.
1. Check Yourself and Passengers for Injuries
First and foremost, we want to make sure you are ok. Check yourself and any passengers for obvious injuries, and, if it is safe to do so, check the other driver/passengers. If anyone is hurt, call 911.
If you are injured, please go to the emergency room as soon as you can. As we’ll discuss below, sometimes injuries “hide” because you’re in a state of shock and there is adrenaline pumping through your body. An exam is important.
2. Report the Accident
According to North Carolina law, you must report any accident in which injury, death, and/or $1000 or more in property damage occurs. When? The law does not give a clear answer, but it is best to call from the scene if you are able. There are a few reasons for this: injuries may not be immediately apparent. For example, soft tissue injuries, whiplash, concussion, and internal injuries may be masked by adrenaline. It is best to protect yourself and your passengers and report the accident.
Another reason to inform law enforcement is that it is exceptionally difficult for most people to accurately gauge vehicle damage. It may look like a little dent or a small crack, but these can be costly to repair. They can rub or push other parts out of place, for example, resulting in safety issues. If you do not report the accident, it can be challenging to get insurance to cover the repairs.
Speaking of insurance, this is yet another reason to notify law enforcement as soon as you can (and preferably at the scene): many policies require that you report the accident immediately, and you will need a police report as you move forward. It’s important to follow these instructions so your coverage is not impacted.
Stay in place while you wait, if it is safe to do so. If your vehicle is a hazard for other drivers and/or is blocking traffic, move to the side of the road if you can. If you cannot, turn on your hazard lights and/or set up road flares.
3. Don’t Admit Fault
We make no claims about being attorneys, so take this advice for what it is! Do not admit fault when talking to the police. Do not lie, exaggerate, or speculate. Simply state the facts as you understand them and as you experienced them.
Do not apologize for the accident. It’s human nature to blurt out an “I’m sorry! Are you ok?” Unfortunately, it is in some human’s nature to use these words against you as they seek to assign blame and fault. Limit interactions to facts. If you do talk to the other driver, simply inquire if they need medical assistance. That’s it.
4. Report the Accident to Your Auto Insurance Company
Take a look at your insurance policy; it will have requirements in terms of your window to report the accident. It may be 24, 48, or 72 hours - or it may be immediately. After you call 911 or the appropriate law enforcement agency, make your insurance company your next call.
Your insurance company then assigns you a claims adjustor, who will be your point of contact from now on. The adjustor examines the accident reports, witness reports (and, if necessary, conducts witness interviews), and the vehicle itself. He or she is responsible for coordinating repairs and medical treatments if you and/or your passengers require. They also determine fault.
While all of this is happening, you can go ahead and get your vehicle repaired. Your insurance will cover it according to the terms of your policy. Now, if they determine that the other party is at fault, they will go after that person’s insurance provider for reimbursement. If they determine you were at fault, they pay - and you will likely see higher premiums.
5. Contact SRM Paintwerks
Our first thought is for your safety. Once you’ve been given an all-clear by the ER staff or received proper treatment for any injuries, it’s time to think about your vehicle. Even small dings and dents need to be repaired. As mentioned, they may be masking a more complex problem underneath (e.g. components rubbing against each other or pushing each other out of their correct position). But minor damage can also leave you vulnerable for rust - and once this sets in, it is very difficult to manage.
Contact SRM Paintwerks. Our collision repair specialists will give your car a thorough inspection to assess the damage, identify that which is related to the accident, and begin work to get your car on the road. We also work with you when it comes to your insurance. If you need help, we’re here.
Drive safe, everyone!