You went and did it. You turned in front of that other car, or you followed it too closely. You were distracted by your children, or you turned away to adjust the stereo. Bottom line: You caused a wreck. Now what?
Here are few simple tips to follow to make sure you don’t make things worse:
Keep your mouth shut
When you are the cause of an auto accident, your first impulse upon getting out of the car most likely will be to apologize to the other driver and his or her passengers. It might feel like the right thing to do, but it is the very thing you should not do. Saying you’re sorry is the same as admitting fault, and that is the number one thing you should not do, even if you’re sure you caused the wreck.
Anything you say or do may be used against you, and no matter how clear-cut it may seem at the time, the evidence may in fact prove that you were not the culprit. Remember, the guilty party is the one whose insurance will be paying any claims that result.
Aside from asking whether anyone is hurt and getting the names and contact information of other drivers, their passengers and any available witnesses, avoid all conversation.
Call the police
Call the police and wait quietly until they arrive, at a distance from the other party or parties. When the police arrive, answer questions honestly and simply, but don’t offer any extra information. If you choose not to involve the authorities, you may risk losing insurance coverage in some states that require police reports, so do make the call.
These days, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a cell phone with a camera. Take lots of pictures that document visible damage to either vehicle, marks in the road, traffic signs, etc. Anything that you think might have the slightest significance should be photographed.
Call your insurance provider
Finally, report the accident to your insurance agent within 24 hours and provide the details as well as you remember them. Find out if the insurer wants to send someone out to see your car and to document the damage, and don’t take it in for repairs until they have finished. Also, ask your insurer whether there are any additional reports required by the state and with whom they must be filed. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row so you don’t get burned later on.
You can make it through an accident – that’s what you bought insurance. But it’s best to plan ahead for how to respond if it happens.