What Should You Do if You Are in an Auto Accident?
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?”
RULE NO. 1
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.
RULE NO. 2
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.
RULE NO. 3
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.