Edited by Krystle, 1guitarhero2, Bob Robertson, Nancy Shaw and 12 others
You’re pulling out of a spot or changing lanes and crunch! — another vehicle is suddenly there and you’re in the middle of a minor car accident. Fortunately, nobody’s hurt, and the cars aren’t totaled, but some damage has been done, and repairs will be needed. If you’ve never been in a car accident before, you may not know what to do, and that might end up hurting your wallet as much as it hurt your car.
Dealing with a Minor Car Accident
Look for the other driver’s license plate number, make, and model. There’s a chance that the other driver may drive off, so it’s good to immediately look at the back of their car, say their license plate number out loud, and keep repeating it until you can write it down (or take a picture with your camera phone).
Turn on your hazard lights.
Call the police as soon as possible. You might be under the impression that the police is called only if it’s a major car accident or if somebody’s hurt, when in actuality the police should be called no matter how minor the accident, particularly if repairs are going to be needed. The police report will help the insurance companies determine who is responsible for paying.
- Ask the police if you should cautiously move the car out of the travel lane, if it will move and it is safe to do so. Do not move far lest the other driver think you are running away.
Get out of your car only if outside your car is reasonably safe or safer than in it. In a minor accident, your car is unlikely to be at risk of catching fire. Do not step out into fast-moving traffic–go out the opposite door if necessary. The police will be able to direct traffic away safely soon. Be especially careful at night. It is much better to have someone hit your car with you in it than to have him hit you unarmored. And it is much better to fail to attend to someone’s minor injury very soon or to lose a witness who could say who should pay for car repairs than to have someone hit by a car.
Make sure nobody is hurt. Check yourself and the passengers in your vehicle for any injuries, scratches, bruises or disorientation.
Look for witnesses. If the accident happened in sight of a pedestrian, shop, or other drivers, ask them to stay on the scene until the police arrive so that they can provide statements. If possible, get their name and phone number.
Exchange information with the other driver. The following information should be exchanged:
- Names, addresses, telephone numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Each driver’s automobile insurance company (including name, address, phone number, and policy number)
Tell the police officer exactly what happened. Be specific and don’t exaggerate.
File a claim or a notification with your insurance company. There are insurance claims and insurance notifications. The last one is when you do notify your insurance company about the accident but do not claim repairs of your car. Depending on how high your insurance access is you might save a lot of money and no-claim years too. Example: replacing an indicator light unit at a local garage instead of claiming it on an insurance might save you something like £250. But do notify your insurance company about the accident anyway!
- These instructions describe how to cover all the bases in the U.S., but the appropriate response will vary based on the country in which it happened.
- If you’re not at fault and your car is damaged, the other driver may try to convince you to not call the police and not file a claim. While it’s not uncommon for parties to work something out without police and insurance getting involved, there are no guarantees. If the other person offers to pay for the damages out of pocket, they can just as easily claim the accident never happened, or that it was your fault. Without a police report, you may end up not getting any kind of compensation.
- If neither of you want your insurance premiums to go up, you may wish to avoid filing a claim, but don’tskip the police report.
- States in the U.S. with “No Fault Insurance” mean each party in the accident is responsible for repairing their own vehicle, and if they have comprehensive coverage, the insurance company will pay for the repairs, less the deductible that applies to the individual policy.
- Some drivers can be belligerent and offensive in the event of an accident.
- Assess the situation after the accident, so that you are not in danger of being hit by another vehicle while looking at the accident scene.