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Collision Survival Guide: Be Prepared

By Jim Sloan on April 7th, 2010
Auto Insurance

Getting into an automobile accident can be very stressful. But if you take a few important steps before you drive and immediately after an accident, you may be better prepared for your auto insurance claim.

Before you set foot in your car, put together a homemade accident survival kit for your glove compartment--this survival kit may help you collect all of the necessary information in the event of an accident.

The kit should include:

  • Pad and pencil
  • Vehicle registration
  • Most recent insurance card
  • Your emergency contact phone numbers
  • Disposable camera
  • Road flares, light sticks, or reflector cones or signs

You should also prepare two homemade forms for your accident survival kit:

  1. Driver Form: This form should ask for the name, address, phone number, auto insurance company, auto insurance company phone number, auto insurance policy number, and driver's license number of the other driver involved in the accident. This form should also ask for the license plate number, vehicle identification number, as well as the year, make, model, and color of any other vehicles in the accident
  2. Witness Forms: The witness form should request the names, addresses, phone numbers, and driver's license numbers of the witnesses of the accident

Immediately After the Accident:

Try not to panic and take the following steps:

  • Check to see if you or any of your passengers are injured. If so, immediately dial 911 or ask someone else in the car to dial 911. Don't move anyone who is injured
  • If your car cannot be moved, stay in the car with seatbelts fastened until help arrives
  • Turn on hazard lights
  • If your vehicle is in the path of oncoming traffic and can be moved, attempt to get it off the road and safely onto the shoulder of the roadway
  • Set out cones, flares, or warning triangles if possible
  • Check on the condition of the driver and passengers in any other cars involved in the accident. If they are injured or need help, call 911
  • If you haven't called 911, do so and report the incident--even if it is a minor collision

Assessing the Situation:

According to the State Bar of California, you should obtain the following information immediately after an accident:

  • Take photos of the scene of the accident, and photos of the damage done to your car and any other cars at the scene. If you don't have a camera in your car, use your cell phone camera
  • Fill out one of your pre-printed, homemade forms for each driver involved in the accident, or ask them to fill the form out
  • Provide the other drivers with your information
  • Have any witnesses fill out the witness forms from your survival kit
  • Call the number on your automobile insurance card. The police on the scene may be able to provide information to your car insurance company that you are overlooking
  • Make detailed notes about the accident, including your location, cross streets, mile markers, the direction you were heading, where the other vehicles were going, and any signs that are nearby. Note the weather or road conditions. Draw a simple diagram of the accident, and if it is safe to do so, pace off any skid marks. If it is dark, note whether streetlights were on

Always Take the Following Precautions:

Take the following precautions immediately after the accident and throughout your claims process:

  • Never admit any wrongdoing or discuss the accident with anyone but the police officer or your insurance company
  • Never take cash on the spot from the at-fault driver--there could be unseen damage to your car
  • Do not speak with the car insurance company of the at-fault party
  • If police don't come to the accident because it was minor, go to the police station and fill out an accident report
  • Call your auto insurance company as soon as possible and provide copies of all the information and photos you collected
  • See a doctor if you suspect even minor injuries, as it may be a while before any injuries become apparent to you

Remember, you must stop after an accident. In many states, if you drive away--whether it's from a collision with another moving vehicle, an unattended parked car, or someone else's property--you can be charged with a hit-and-run. If you hit a parked car or other property, you must try to find the owner. If you can't, you must leave a note with your name, address, and explanation. You must also notify the local police or highway patrol.

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