There are about 6 million car accidents that take place in the U.S. every year. If you’ve ever been involved in one, you know what a traumatic experience it can be. And it can be especially difficult for people to process a crash when they don’t feel as though the accident was their fault. If you ever find yourself in this situation, there are certain steps you should take to protect yourself.
Here’s how to handle an accident whether it’s your fault or not:
Make sure everyone is OK
In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you might be angry. You might even be tempted to get out of your vehicle and yell at the other driver. But rather than going that route, take a few deep breaths, make sure everyone inside of your vehicle is safe, and then check on your fellow drivers. If they need medical assistance, you’ll need to call 911 right away.
Contact the police
If everyone appears to be OK following the accident, your next course of action should be to contact the police. A police officer can come down to the scene of your accident, take statements from everyone involved, and try to piece together exactly what happened. You will have an opportunity to state your case and let the police know why you don’t feel you were at fault.
Be aware though, that if there are no injuries, the police dispatcher may tell you to just exchange information and go on your way, especially if the accident occurs during a period of heavy rain or other inclement weather when more accidents occur than there are police on the road.
Gather auto insurance information from other drivers involved in the accident
After the police are finished investigating your crash, you’ll be free to leave the scene of the accident if your vehicle is drivable. But before you do, you should always exchange auto insurance information with the other drivers involved in the accident. You should also try to obtain contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the crash. Additionally, it’s a good idea to take any photos at the scene that might support your case later if you’re asked to prove that the accident wasn’t your fault.
Write everything down that you can remember about the incident
Once you’re done speaking with police and talking to other drivers, you should make an effort to write everything down that you remember about the incident. Depending on your actions, and the actions of the others involved, you may be asked to recall details about the incident a year, two years, or even 5 years or more after the incident. A good way to organize this is a series of three lists. One list is composed of things you KNOW you remember yourself. The second list is composed of things you THINK you remember. The third list is composed of things you have “pieced together” after the incident or have been told to you. If things drag on into months or years, you can refresh your memory with these lists when required to do so. By the way, if you are NOT involved in the incident, but are a WITNESS to an incident, this is also a good process to go through.
Touch base with your auto insurance company ASAP
Once you’re done speaking with police and talking to other drivers, you should make an effort to reach out to your auto insurance company immediately. They’ll speak with you about the accident, ask you what happened during it, help you file any reports that are required with the DMV or other agencies, and possibly launch a full investigation into it. As long as you’ve documented everything that has taken place, you should be fully prepared in the event that your accident leads to a legal battle.
Possibly retain an attorney
Once you’re done speaking with your insurance company representatives, you may feel you have to retain an attorney. Two possible reasons for this are either because the insurance company doesn’t support you in your claim of not being at fault, or their offer of compensation is less than you feel the value of the loss was. The sooner you retain an attorney, the more likely there will be a positive outcome for you, along with less cost and time expenditure in reaching that resolution. Be aware, however, if there are no injuries, most attorneys won’t have much interest in taking your case.
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