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What to do after a car accident

June 9, 2021

The Accident

If you've been in an accident, you may have a lot of questions about what to do next, if you need to file a claim, how the claims process will go, and more. Especially if your driving record was squeaky clean before the accident.

Asking multiple questions is normal. Being in an accident can be one of the scariest moments of your life, but take a deep breath..

Step One: Make sure you are safe.

First, if you or anyone else is injured or hurt, call 911 to get the medical attention needed. Before you deal with any insurance claims, make sure that you and the other parties are okay.

It's important to know that every car accident is different -- and not every situation requires the police. For example, if you're in a major accident with injuries, you'll definitely want law enforcement on the scene to manage the situation and file a report. However, depending on the specifics of your accident, getting a police report might not be necessary. Please not that reporting requirements in some states depend upon the dollar amount of damages, your Claim Adjuster or Claims Representative can help you with making sure you file the proper report if law enforcement did not respond to the scene.

Step Two: Exchange information with other parties.

Secondly, you'll want to exchange information (drivers license information, phone number, insurance policy number, and address) with the other party after you make sure everyone is safe and getting attended to.

And of course, share your insurance and contact information with others involved with the accident.

Step Three: Take photos.

We recommend taking photos of the other persons license plate, insurance card, and drivers license. Also ask the person for their phone number and then dial the number while you are on the scene to be sure that is the correct phone number.

Take photos of any damages to property or vehicles, the overall accident scene, and whatever else you feel may help provide evidence for your claim.

Snap a few pictures from multiple angles of the accident or damaged property as well. Here’s a quick checklist to get you started taking pictures:

Here’s what to photograph after a car accident:

  • Your car and any damage incurred
  • Other cars or property involved in the accident
  • Marks or debris on the road from the accident
  • Unusual road conditions in or near the accident scene

Step Four: Travel safely to your next destination.

After assessing the other parties, exchanging information, and taking photos, you want to make sure that you make it back home safely. Calling trusted family or friends immediately after a stressful car accident is the norm. If you do reach out to a friend, you might be able to get a ride from the scene of the accident.

If the police are on the scene of the accident and your car isn’t drivable, they may assist by calling a tow truck to get traffic moving again. When your car is not drivable and needs to be relocated, make sure you’re mindful of reducing any unnecessary fees or additional damages. Keep in mind, tow yards charge storage fees. It is your responsibility to get your car out of the tow yard as soon as possible, the insurance company is not responsible to cover your tow yard fees in instances where the car is being stored for more than 24 hours.

Once you leave the accident scene and get to your next location safely, if you plan on filing a car insurance claim—more on that below—contact your insurance company about repair shop needs as soon as you can.

Step Five: Filing the claim.

If any of the following apply, it's time to call your insurance company:

  1. If any party involved are injured
  2. If there’s damage to your vehicle that costs more than your deductible
  3. If any of the other parties weren't insured
  4. If it’s unclear whose fault the accident is—or if fault is disputed between you and others involved
  5. If you were involved in a hit and run

Pro Tip: You don't have to file a claim if it isn't your fault.

If you are involved in an accident where the other party hit you, and you have injured or damage to your car, you are not required to file a claim on your own insurance policy. In fact, it is best to use the other parties insurance policy to file that claim. Filing a claim on your insurance results in you having to pay your own deductible to use your own policy for repairs. You get reimbursed for your deductible expenses if a successful subrogtation is completed. This can take 6 months to a year or more. In addition, the claim is still going to report as an actual claim on YOUR insurance record if you use your own policy. It is best to use the other party insurance who was at fault. The other parties insurance will cover the claim in full (if approved by their claims department), you do not have to pay a dime to get it fixed through the other parties insurance directly.

How long do I have to file a car insurance claim?

It’s pretty common to wonder how long you’ll have to file a claim—and timelines for filing vary by state. However, once you know that you need to file a claim, you should start the process as soon as possible. Filing your claim immediately can help you avoid tricky situations later on—the sooner you file, the better everyone’s memory will be about what actually happened.