What to Do After a Car Accident
It can happen to you, anytime and anywhere. You may be at a traffic light, listening idly to the stereo. In the back of your mind, you hear the sound of screeching tires.
Before you can realize that the sound you’re hearing seems to be much too close for comfort, you feel the impact. Your head snaps back—you feel the full weight of the car behind you as it smashes into the rear of your car. Suddenly, your body is surging with adrenaline.
Car accidents are frequent occurrences, and no matter how minor, are challenging scenarios to stay clear-headed during.
Between the shock of the sudden impact and the surge of adrenaline racing through your veins, your first instinct may be to get out of the situation as fast as you can—your brain's telling you you're in danger, so it's only natural to distance yourself from the cause.
However, you can’t just flee from an accident and the last thing you want to do is wave it off, hand someone your phone number or some cash and pretend the whole thing never happened.
But what if the accident is just a little fender bender. What if it wasn’t even your fault? Is it worth the effort to get your insurance involved?
Whatever choices you make here will also have long-term consequences in the event you need an accident attorney.
What do I do after a car accident when it wasn’t my fault? Do I still call my insurance?
Knowing what to do after a car accident that's not your fault can be tricky and even feel counter intuitive to your sense of self-preservation.
If you’re involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, then it stands to reason that you do not need to file any kind of insurance claim.
That would be the onus of the other driver, right? Unfortunately, you’d be wrong to make that assumption.
No matter who is at fault in an accident, it’s your responsibility to file a claim with your insurance. It’s also important to ensure the other driver is doing the same.
Once filed, your insurance company will handle the rest for you; be it a no-fault policy or one where they contact the other driver’s insurance.
While it may seem like a pain to get your insurance involved for an accident you had nothing to do with, it simply doesn’t work that way.
Car insurance isn’t just insurance on accidents you cause, it insures you against all types of damage.
Are Minor Accidents Worth a Call to My Insurance?
It can be difficult to ascertain what to do after a minor car accident. Do you need to call your provider? The short answer to this question is yes.
But first, you’ll want to call 911 to have an officer on-site. Having a police officer present at an accident will mean that a traffic report is filed, which will always ascertain who is at fault. Traffic reports come in extremely handy to your insurance provider.
You should also have a "what to do after a car accident checklist” on hand to make it even easier to know what steps to take after a car accident, even in the middle of a stressful situation.
Check out our Fry Law Accident Guide for a full list of checklists, questionnaires and actionable steps to protect yourself when you’re in an accident.
There are often two reasons a driver is unwilling to call their insurance due to a collision with another vehicle.
They assume that any call to their insurance will increase their premium and they'd rather just keep the accident between themselves and the other driver—keeping things simple by handing over some cash.
While the idea of handling an accident “man-to-man” may seem attractive while you’re still recovering from the shock and subsequent adrenaline of an accident, think about that scenario now, with a clear head. Break it down:
You fork over some cash for the driver’s busted tail light.
They drive home and, in the morning, realize more damage was done than they could see the night before.
Even though you agreed not to, they phone their insurance and file a report.
If the driver hands the insurance company your information then you’re in trouble—not only have you failed to file an insurance claim, but depending on what the other driver claims, you may also need to defend yourself against a hit-and-run.
It’s easy to see how quickly an informal transaction like this can turn into something quite serious, which you now have to defend with very limited evidence exonerating you. After all, you were involved in an accident and you did fail to report it.
Should I Do Something Different if the Accident WAS My Fault?
In short, whether you've been rear-ended sitting at a red light, or you t-boned another car because you raced through a stop sign, you have a responsibility to your insurance company to report any accident you’re involved in.
If the accident is your fault, don’t do anything differently—simply stay at the scene and call 911 if you think it’s needed and phone your insurance company to file a claim.
The only scenario where you could get away without a call would be minor, cosmetic damage to your vehicle on private property with no injuries to either you or another person. Anything else, give your insurance a call.
Do Insurance Rates Go Up After an Accident? What if it Wasn’t My Fault?
The question of when, or why your insurance rates could go up is a hard one to answer even if the question of what to do after a car accident that was your fault is easy.
If you've been involved in a car accident that you caused or had some degree of fault in, then surely your premiums will be raised as a result.
However, even if you’re involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, there’s a good chance you’ll see an increase in your premium.
Many insurance companies believe that all accidents have some degree of fault from both drivers—a lack of adequate defensive driving can very well lead to additional accidents, fault or no fault.
Additionally, your driving record can impact how your insurer views a "no-fault" or "not-your-fault" accident. If you have a poor track record of responsible driving, then any accident will change your rates for the worse. It's best to practice defensive driving—the only good accident is no accident.
Car Insurance Is an Asset When You Drive Responsibly
For a responsible driver, car insurance is an asset. But bear in mind it works best when you have a completely clean track record. Some accidents we simply cannot avoid and our car insurance is in place for exactly those kinds of situations.
What would you rather have; an increased premium or a pending lawsuit from a driver that hit you and claimed a neck injury? Your car insurance will do the dirty work and can keep you out of trouble assuming you have an adequate policy in place.
If you want your insurance to work for you, speak to an agent about your policy limits to
ensure you have a policy big enough to keep you safe in the event of an auto accident. When your insurance is adequately matched to your situation, it will do wonders to protect you.