No one likes to think that they may be involved in an auto accident, but knowing what to do after a crash can save lives, reduce injuries and make the entire claims process much easier, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
There are over 6.3 million auto crashes each year, resulting in an injury every 11 seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“If you are in an auto accident, there are four things to remember to do,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “Stop your car, see if anyone is hurt, assess the damage and then get as much information as possible about the accident.”
At the scene of an accident, the I.I.I. recommends that:
- Find out if anyone is injured. Call the police or highway patrol and let them know how many people were hurt and the extent of their injuries. The police will then notify the nearest medical unit. Avoid moving a severely injured person, unless they are in danger of getting hit by traffic. Try to calm the person and keep them warm by covering them with a blanket or jacket until help arrives.
- Protect the accident scene. Take reasonable steps to protect your car from further damage by setting up flares, getting the car off the road and calling a tow truck.
- Collect as much information as possible. Everyone should keep a pad of paper and a pencil in the glove department of their car. You may also want to keep a disposable camera to take pictures of any damage done to the vehicles. Make sure you get the following information:- Names, addresses and phone numbers of all drivers and passengers involved in the accident, license plate numbers, make and model of each car, driver’s license numbers and insurance information.
– Names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses.
– Names, badge numbers and contact information of police, highway patrol or other emergency personnel at the scene. Remember to ask where you can obtain a copy of the police report. You will need it when filing a claim.
– Make note of the date, time, location and other relevant information such as driving conditions. Details can sometimes be forgotten weeks or months later, so it is important to jot them down.
If there is anything about the accident that does not feel right, mention it to the investigating police officer and let your insurance company know. Some auto accidents have been orchestrated by insurance fraud criminals.
“If you feel that the accident was a set-up, don’t confront the other driver or passengers,” says Salvatore. “They can be dangerous people. Instead, tell law enforcement or your insurance company about your suspicions and let them investigate the situation.”
The National Insurance Crime bureau has information on staged accidents on its website at www.nicb.org. If you suspect insurance fraud, you can also call their toll free number, 1-800-TEL-NICB
“If you get in accident with another driver or pedestrian, let your insurance company know about the incident,” points out Salvatore. “Even someone who appears to be unharmed may sue you. For your insurer to defend you in court, they need to know about the accident.”
To file an auto insurance claim, the I.I.I. suggests:
- Get in touch with your insurer as soon as possible, regardless of who is at fault.
- Find out what forms or documents you will need to support your claim. In most cases, your insurer will require you to fill out a “proof of claim” form. If there is a police report, provide this to your insurer. Many insurers have the technology that allows you to monitor the progress of your claim on their website.
- When speaking with your insurer, get the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak with throughout the claims process and keep copies of any bills or documents you supply to your insurer.
- Ask your agent or company representative the following questions:- Does my policy contain a time limit for filing claims and submitting bills?
– Is there a time limit for resolving claims disputes?
– If I need to submit additional information, what is the cutoff point?
– Do I need to get repair estimates for the damages to my car?
– Will my policy pay for a rental car while my car is being repaired? If so, how much will I be reimbursed and are there any time constraints?
“Each state has its own laws governing the claims process and you have rights and obligations under these laws,” says Salvatore.
If you have any questions regarding your claim, contact your insurance agent or company representative.
For a link to your state insurance department or more information on filing an auto insurance claim, you can access the I.I.I.’s website at www.iii.org
The I.I.I. is a non-profit, communications organization supported by the property/casualty insurance business.
Source: Insurance Information Institute, “Knowing What To Do After An Auto Accident Saves Lives & Makes Filing A Claim Easier; The I.I.I. Offers Tips to Help Navigate the Claims Process” iihs.org website. Accessed June 2, 2014. http://www.iii.org/media/updates/archive/press.740304/?printerfriendly=yes
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