Published: September 2015
Q: "I've just had a car accident. What are the immediate steps I should take?"
A: Your first priority immediately after a car accident is to ensure the safety of yourself and all passengers, says Highlands Ranch, Colorado-based Allstate agent Michelle Colaizzi. Check for injuries, and contact first responders by calling 911, if necessary. If everyone seems fine, you can then proceed to move your vehicle out of the roadway, if possible, and begin the process of gathering and exchanging information with the other driver, contacting police and filing a claim with your insurer. If you cannot move your car, get yourself off the road and in a safe place to gather information.
Assuming no one is injured, says Colaizzi, you should try to step away from traffic to begin inspecting and documenting the visible evidence of damage, as well as exchanging information with the other party.
“Make sure both parties stay on the scene, so that you can collect as much information as possible from the other person,” says Colaizzi. “You don’t want to be chasing the other person down hours or days later to get important data you missed.”
Colaizzi recommends at minimum exchanging the following information:
- Name and contact information of the drivers
- License plate numbers of all vehicles involved
- Each driver's auto insurance policy number
- Each vehicle's make, model, color and year
If there is noticeable damage to either vehicle, contact local police in order to begin a formal investigation. And modern technology, such as smartphone cameras, can play an important role in information gathering for your claim, says Colaizzi.
“Take a picture of the damage or of the accident scene, if you can, for documentation purposes," she says. "Even pictures of skid marks could help your insurance claim or the police with their investigation.”
Colaizzi recommends contacting your insurer as soon as possible after the accident. In addition to helping expedite your claim, it can also provide you with needed help and guidance in the aftermath of an accident.
“If the car is no longer driveable, your insurer can help you explore options, such as rentals," she says. "And they can clarify your benefits and make sure you’re not incurring unnecessary expenses."
That’s why it’s so important to make sure you have a good relationship with your agent, and review your insurance coverage at least once a year, if not twice, according to Colaizzi. Your agent may even provide you with an accident kit for your glove compartment, which can provide helpful tips and tools in the event of a collision. Frequent conversations with your agent can help you find the right policy choices for your individual situation - before an accident occurs.
“Do I need collision coverage? Do I really know what my policy covers? Having that communication beforehand is helpful, because after an accident is the wrong time to realize your deductible is $1,000 when you thought it was $500, or that you lacked rental car coverage in your policy,” says Colaizzi.
Shortly after the accident, you'll want to get your vehicle fixed. Here's a glimpse at what you can expect the process to include:
- Schedule an Inspection: Call your insurance company to schedule an inspection of the damage to your vehicle.
- Speak with an Adjuster: Your insurance company's claims adjuster will review the information, help determine fault and provide a cost estimate.
- Get It Fixed: Once the claim is filed and coverage has been determined, your insurer can help you get your vehicle repaired. You have the right to choose a repair facility, or you can choose a repair shop identified by your insurer.
Speak with your insurance agent or provider to help you prepare for accidents and decide on the right coverage for your family’s needs.