It happened again; One of my Dallas friends who is also an auto insurance client called me late last night, frantic, asking how being involved in an auto accident was going to effect his car insurance rates. As usual, I asked if he had the other party’s insurance info, and as usual, the answer was “the police officer got it”. I will answer his question here first; in general, an accident is not going to have an immediate effect on your car insurance rates. You have insurance to protect against the financial hardship an auto accident can bring, so don’t worry about a minor fender bender. It may be emotionally draining, but it shouldn’t be a financial hardship – that’s why you have insurance.
Now for the important part of this blog post. What do you need to do if you have had an accident. All of these steps are if no one is hurt. Obviously tend to people first.
- Pull off of the road if at all possible. This is the first thing you should do. If both of your cars can move, pull out of traffic to exchange information. It’s safer than sitting in traffic trying to have a conversation, and has less of an impact on traffic. How many times have you sat in 20 extra minutes of traffic because two people got into an accident and were busy chatting and trading information while rush hour traffic snarled up around them? Don’t be that guy.
- YOU get the other driver’s Information. This is the big one – most people I talk to say “well, the police got their car insurance information and put it on the report.” That’s no good, because the information may not be correct, and also, you don’t get a copy of that police report immediately. It may take a week for the report to be availaible to you so you can start the calims process with the other insured’s company. MAke sure you take a photo of their ID card, their DL, and their car.
- If at all possible, call the claim in to their company immediately. Why wait? If you let the other driver drive away from a car accident, memories fade, and the whole idea of whose fault it is starts to shift. When you call the insurance company 2 days after an accident, suddenly the driver who was saying “I’m so sorry, it’s my fault” at the scene of an accident is pretty sure that this was all your fault, and that there is no way their company is paying.
- Don’t count on them paying to fix your car out of pocket. This happens a lot; people don’t want to “get their insurance involved” and offer to pay to fix your car on their own. This rarely works out well, but if you are inclined to give it a shot,get their car insurance information first. In my experience, the repair cost is always higher than they can affor or understand, and you end up going through insurance anyway. Save yourself some hassle and just get the insurance information anyway.
- If there are any witnesses, YOU gather their information. People rarely stop for a minor fender bender, but if there are any witnesses, get their information yourself. Your auto insurance company is going to want that info, and once again, if it is locked up or incorrect on the police report, then having a witness is of zero value to you. Get their name and phone number, and if you can, even record their statement to submit to your insurance company. Have them state their name, telephoine number, and the current date and time at the beginning f your recording.
These are the basic things you should do in the event of an auto accident to make sure you have all of the information nescessary to ensure an good outcome with the insurance companies. In addition to having all of this information, you should take a few minutes to go over your insurance once a year to ensure that you are protected correctly, and that you are not missing any coverage on your auto insurance. At The Phoenix Insurance we actively check your policy every year at renewal and ensure that you are not paying any more for your auto insurance than you need to – and that lower cost doesn’t mean lower protection.