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What Should You Do if You Are in an Auto Accident?

Updated on December 14, 2012

Buy a new car? Or a newer car? Maybe. Because if your car is totaled, and you have Collision coverage, you are going to get far more money than if you sold or traded in the car. Because the insurance company is going to pay you approximately retail price. Not that I’m suggesting that anybody go out and give driving thru at Taco Bell an entirely new meaning.

This article is not about how not to have an accident by not engaging in text sex on your IPhone 4 with your significant other. It is about what needs to be done after the accident occurs, and how to make sure that everyone who is driving your vehicles knows what needs to be done, especially teenage drivers.

Also, please remember that if you are a teenage girl, the first thing to do is not call your dad and cry. Call me, of course. But you are likely going to have to deal with this yourself. Depending on where the accident happens, everything could be mostly all over by the time I can get there.

If you are involved in an accident, you are likely to be excited, even if it’s minor. We have all seen people screaming at one another at the scene of an accident. So it’s important to have what you should do written down, or committed to memory. This is especially true for you to have it written down for your young inexperienced teenage driver. When your teenager first gets his/her license, do you really think that having an accident on his/her mind? If you broach the subject with your teenager, you might get an answer such as “Oh I’m a safe driver, I won’t have any accidents” like I did. Yeah, just like you won’t get any speeding tickets. You should hear the explanation I got for that one.

I wrote down a summarized version of the rules I discuss below on an envelope for my teenage daughter. I placed the registration card, insurance card, and AAA card in the envelope and put it in her glove box. My thinking is she might pay more attention to my bold writing than some fine print on an insurance card. I also went over these rules with her, and occasionally quiz her on same. As in, “Now what are you going to do if you are in an accident?”


Obviously if someone is injured, that has to be dealt with immediately and should be the utmost concern of everyone at the scene. If someone is seriously injured, you don’t need my advice. You likely need an attorney.

In the state of Pennsylvania, a driver is required by law to contact the police from the scene if someone is injured in the accident or if your vehicle must be towed from the scene. You should check the law in your state. If you have an insurance card, it may provide that information.


If the vehicles are impeding traffic, they need to be moved as soon as possible. We don’t want a second accident happening because of the first, now do we. It might be advisable to take some pictures with your cell phone first, in light of the next rule. And don’t tell me a young lady in high heels can’t push her car off the road.

Now, if your vehicle must be towed from the scene, there are several possibilities that could occur. If the police are involved they may not give you a choice regarding who tows it or where it will be towed. If you have AAA and can call them, you can have it towed where you want. Road Service coverage on your auto policy is also a good idea. It costs me $4 per vehicle. With that coverage, I can submit a bill for towing and get paid by my insurance company.


Get the necessary information. In my state, the drivers are required by law to exchange basic driver, vehicle, and insurance information. Again, use your cell phone to take pictures. Obtain information from witnesses, if possible.

Let me emphasize, it is more important to get this information than it is to brush your hair and freshen up your makeup to get ready for the cops.

And then contact your insurance company. Or not.

Those are the basic rules. Now I will elaborate on a few points.

Why do I say “Or not” with respect to contacting your insurance company. Let me describe a situation where I personally would not contact my insurance company and report the claim. Insurance companies surcharge you for at-fault accidents over a certain amount of monetary damage, called a threshold. With my insurer, the threshold is $1,450 and the surcharge is 30% the first year, 20% the second, and 10% the third.

Let’s say my daughter slides off the road and hits a tree. Nobody else is involved and there is no damage to anyone’s property. She is able to drive the car home. I get an estimate and the damage to the car is $2,000. The deductible is $500, so my insurance company would pay me $1,500, and I would be surcharged $1200 over the next 3 years. I personally would not turn a claim into my insurer, I’d be out a little money, but my daughter would not have an accident on her record.

Once you turn a claim into your insurer, that accident is on your record. Eventually that accident finds its way to a data base to which all insurance companies have access. Do you shop around for auto insurance like I do looking for the best rate? Geico, Progressive and other companies are always telling me on TV how much money I can save. When you shop around, the fewer accidents on your record the better chance you have of saving money.

Not to mention that your insurance could be cancelled by your current company if you have too many accidents, according to them. Actually, the correct term is nonrenewed. In my state, your auto policy can be legally nonrenewed for 2 or more at-fault accidents over the threshold in the past 3 years. So if I turn in the claim for my daughter’s accident, I could be nonrenewed if I have my own accident.

Incidentally, having some sort of collision or other incident involving an animal such as a deer or elephant is not considered to be an at-fault accident. Even if you try to run it over, as long as nobody sees you. The damages would be paid under Comprehensive rather than Collision coverage. Thus, you are not subject to surcharge. I’m not exactly sure how driving into a swimming pool would be handled. It probably would depend on how much you had to drink. DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DUW (Driving Under Water) are not recommended by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

One more issue I would like to discuss briefly. What do you do for a vehicle while yours is being repaired? A coverage you can add to your policy for a reasonable premium is called loss of use or rental reimbursement, and will pay for a rental while your car is in the shop.

I hope that this article helps you or your teenager cope with your next auto accident. Please feel free to ask or comment about anything I have said or anything else related to this subject.


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    • profile image

      Jack Mason 

      5 years ago

      Haha! Where do you find pictures like those?! This is a great hub! I'm going to check out


      Jack Hazen 

      5 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      My advice to my ex-wife with respect to "What Should You Do if You are in an Auto Accident?" is to give up driving before she kills somebody. She had her second at-fault total loss in less than 3 months a couple days ago.

      A while back she asked me to take her and my daughter to the airport as they were visiting family in Texas. She asked me to be at her house at 7:00 am to leave for the airport. She wasn't ready until 8:30 am. All the way during the hour ride she bitched about me not going fast enough, although I was a few miles over the limit. She demanded that I pull over and let her drive. Of course I refused. Well, we made it to the airport with about 2 minutes to spare.

      And then there was the time . . .

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this. I was looking for auto insurance in West Valley and was able to find what I needed.


      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Yes indeed, monica, the pic is very real.

      The worst part about that accident is that it caused the driver's credit score to dip to 550.

    • monicamelendez profile image


      6 years ago from Salt Lake City

      These pictures are seriously amazing. Is the one with the roof real? If so, that is insane!


      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Hey thanks, CarNoobz. I try to put a little fun in most of the hubs I write.

      I personally wouldn’t worry about being charged with hit-and-run. Because I’ll have a sheet of paper with the other driver’s information on it that I wrote down at the scene, so obviously we exchanged info at the scene as required by law. You are not required to report an accident to the police in Pennsylvania where I live unless a vehicle has to be towed or someone is injured. And I wasn’t aware of any injury

      The injury would be of less concern to me being that Pennsylvania is a No Fault state with respect to injuries. The other party would be paid for medical bills and lost wages by his own insurance company and he could sue me for pain and suffering only if the medical bills reach a certain threshold, which also depends on whether he has full or limited tort on his policy.

      The biggest issue for me in deciding whether to take a chance on somebody saying they are going to pay for the accident is how credible the person appears to be to me. I can usually tell.

      If I’m involved in a fender-bender in an intersection of a mall parking lot and the other party says he will pay me rather than turn it over to the insurance companies, I like that idea because otherwise the insurance companies are likely to say each party is responsible for their own damages, and I’m out $500 for the deductible.

      I’ll probably be turning in a lot more claims soon because my teenage daughter just said to me today she wants me to teach her how to drive a stick (my Jeep Wrangler).

    • CarNoobz profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      I love that Taco Bell pic... "Missed it by....THAT MUCH..."

      I'm the same way (i.e. CHEAP) about reporting accidents to my insurance company...only had a couple minor "love taps" over the past 20 years...and they weren't my I just let it go.

      But a case could be made for reporting even those minor accidents where the other party was at fault and agrees to pay you for it. Suppose you don't report it to police or your insurance, and simply trust the other driver to pay you, and then a day or two later the cops show up at your door placing you under arrest for a hit-and-run, and the "victim" is claiming to sue for his injuries and "pain and loss". He reported it. He filed a claim. He got a note from his doctor. You could be totally screwed.

      Not that it ever happened to ME, but I'm just sayin'...

      Fun Hub!


      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Hey Freddy, are you sure you don't have Uninsured Motorists Property Damage coverage? That would pay for not only an uninsured driver causing you damage, but a hit-and-run driver as well.

      Yeah, I had my tires slashed a while back. The state cop who investigated told me to turn in an insurance claim. What for? I have a $500 deductible on Comprehensive. That was about the cost of the new tires. Of course the state cops didn't catch the culprit. They are too busy setting up speed traps catching my teenage daughter culprit.

    • FreddyM profile image


      6 years ago from Everywhere USA

      I was hit and run on the interstate last week. A big truck (big but not a semi) swerved into me in the right lane and kept right on going. I could't get the license number and by the time I got service on my cell phone to call the police he was apparently long gone, because they haven't found him, not yet anyway.

      This is going to be real depressing if I have to pay the $1000 deductible.

      Good advice to get witnesses and all that. Sometimes you can't.


      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Hey State Farmer, Discount Double Check? I love that commercial with Bobby Knight running during March Madness.

      Sad but true, about young drivers being a problem when it comes to renting a car. Enterprise, the one in my neighborhood, says absolutely no to drivers under 18. Those 18-20 can rent only if it's an insurance replacement and the youngster has his/her own policy with full coverage. 21-24 can rent, but only certain models. No minivans, pick-up trucks, SUVs. And there is a $10 per day underage driver surcharge.

      The important thing to remember is that there is no coverage under your insurance policy for driving a vehicle without the owner's permission. If the young driver is driving without the permission of the rental company, there is no coverage.

    • profile image

      State Farmer 

      6 years ago

      I got the rental coverage you mentioned on my policy.Last year my wife was in accident.We got the rental ok except for my son couldn't drive it.All the rental companies i talked wanted more money to let him drive or wouldn't let someone his age drive the car at all.


      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      M. Martinez, if you reported the accident to your insurance company, or if another party did, it will be in this data base.

      The data base is called CLUE, and I'm not talking about the crime fiction board game. I'm talking about Comprehensive Loss and Underwriting Exchange.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What is that data base you were talk about where the insurance company have all your accidents? i got a copy of my mvr from state dmv but it doesn't have an accident i had 2 yrs ago is this data b ase going to have it on it?


      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Well, it appears you are an accident waiting to happen, Sarahhh666. It may be due to the number of the beast after your name, but more likely it is because you are a distracted driver.

      Not to worry, once you have a clean driving record for 3 years, you can get off Assigned Risk. Of course, hell might freeze over first.

    • Sarahhh666 profile image


      6 years ago from near Philly

      I am a young driver in Philly and let me tell you the insurance is breaking my bank for sure. I had a couple accidents and now I am on Assigned Risk. I guess I never should have turned them in, at least one of them.


      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Yes indeed, adjkp25, but I'd be more worried if I was driving and had to explain how the car got there as opposed to the one who had to get it out.

      Very interesting hub of yours entitled "Can driving a Manual Transmission or 'Stick' Vehicle really help to protect our kids and Keep them Safe while Driving?" as I indicated in my comment on same.

    • adjkp25 profile image


      6 years ago from Northern California

      Great hub with useful information for anyone out there, new or more experienced behind the wheel.

      I loved the photo of the car sticking out of the roof; I hope they will use more than the ladder to get it out of there.


      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Well Max, you should tell your daughter the next time this happens, get a signed statement from the guilty party. Obviously no one is going to have some typed legalese document ready in advance. Just find a piece of paper and have him sign something like, "My bad."

      Actually, this did happen to me once. I collided with some guy in a parking lot. Liability was questionable. You know how those parking lots are. Often you can't tell who has the right of way.

      So the guy was real reluctant to show me his driver's license. I suspected a problem there. Suspended or some such thing I guessed. But he did pay me, so all was good. It's not like I couldn't have found the guy if he hadn't paid me. I knew where he worked and I wrote down his plate number. You know, I never did find out his name.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great advice.its funny how the stories change daughter was involved in an accident where the other driver admitted fault at the scene and told her to get an estimate and then he would pay for it.when he saw the estimate he changed his story.unfortunately my daughter did not get any witnesses.


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