Like most Americans, Texans love the open road. And with 300,000 miles of road and street mileage, we have plenty of opportunities to enjoy that pastime. But what should you do if you or a loved one is involved in a car accident? Here’s a checklist of the three important steps to take following a car accident.
1. Call 911 as soon as you can safely do so. The faster you call 911, the faster the police and paramedics can arrive, if necessary. Your first responsibility during an accident is making sure that any injured people (including you) receive help as quickly as possible, according to the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Only move an injured person if they are not safe where they are; movement can further injure someone who has suffered trauma.
2. Collect as much information as possible for yourself, the police and your insurance company. A thorough accident report is important for later determining who is responsible for the accident and which person involved in the accident—or their insurance company—will need to cover the costs of the response, treatment and repairs.
Usually, the police will ask lots of questions in order to create an accident report, but the I.I.I. recommends collecting the information for yourself, too—especially any details that you may not be able to remember later. This Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) accident report is essentially what the police will use, and it can give you a good idea of the kind of detail needed for any potential future claims.
Keep a notepad and writing utensil in your car at all times so you can accurately document an accident if one should happen. Photos of the damage will also help your documentation, so you can use the camera on your smartphone, or consider keeping a disposable camera in your vehicle. The I.I.I. says your notes after an accident should include drivers license numbers, personal contact information, insurers’ contact information, insurance policy numbers, and also anything you noticed about the accident that seemed unusual.
3. Call your insurer. You need to notify them of the accident—even if you didn’t cause it or you think it was minor. Other parties involved can still file a claim or a lawsuit or discover real damage later, even if there did not appear to be injuries or any related damage at the time.
Ask the insurance representative about what to do next. If your vehicle is damaged, the representative should be able to answer questions about collision centers in the area; seeking damage estimates for the car; rental car provisions or covered costs during repairs; and whether there is a time limit for claims to be filed. The I.I.I. recommends that you take detailed notes of every conversation you have with your insurer, including representatives’ names and telephone numbers.
These three important tasks to remember may seem fairly simple, but it can be easy to forget them amid the excitement and danger of an accident.
Knowing this, you might consider keeping this checklist in your car (along with that notepad and a camera) as a reassuring resource for when you need it.