When an auto accident occurs, chaos is immediate, both in your physical surroundings and in your body. Adrenaline pulses. You may be injured. Fear, anxiety or worry may set in. All of these can make it difficult to handle the details.
While the stress of the moment may be overwhelming, it is important to stay calm. Whether or not it was your fault, whether multiple vehicles were involved or if it was just you and a fence post, there is a certain protocol to follow. Print out the following checklist and keep it in your car to help you focus in the event of an accident.
1. Call 911
2. Check for injuries. You will know right away if you are badly hurt, but due to the rush of adrenaline, you may not recognize less noticeable injuries right away, so be careful. Also, check with the other passengers in your car and any other vehicles involved in the accident and find out who is injured and how. Do not move anyone who is injured unless they are in danger of further injuries.
3. Look for witnesses. The sooner, the better.
4. Talk to the other driver. Get their information (name, license number, contact information, insurance name and policy number, license plate number, vehicle description, driver description), but discuss the accident as little as possible and, above all, do not claim the accident as your fault.
5. When help arrives. Let the paramedics check you over, even if you do not feel that you are injured. Calmly tell your side of the story to the police. Be as detailed as possible and get their contact information and your case number so that if you remember details later, you will be able to contact them.
6. Ask questions if anything is unclear.
How an Accident Affects Your Rates
Do not assume that just because you were in an accident that your rates will automatically increase. Every situation is handled differently. Here are some of the factors that will be looked into when your insurance company makes a decision about your claim and your future rates:
- Who and what caused the accident. If the accident was not your fault, it probably will not affect your rates.
- How bad the accident is. The smaller the claim, the less likely that it will affect your rates.
- Possible accident forgiveness policy. Some insurance companies will not change your rates if the accident is your fault, but usually only if you have not had an accident for a specified period of time under their coverage.
- Claim history. In many states, if you make a high number of claims or a great many in a row, then it is likely that your premium will rise.
If you are concerned about your potential insurance company's philosophy on accidents, claims, and rate changes: Ask! It is important to understand how and what affects your insurance rates.