Getting into a car accident is stressful and handling what comes next can be overwhelming. You've never been in an accident before and are unsure of what to do now. Should you call the police? What information needs to be exchanged? When's the best time to make an insurance claim?
Handling a minor accident
If the accident is minor, there was no major damage to either car and no one sustained any injuries, it might not be necessary to involve the police. Make your best judgment, do your best to remain calm and be as courteous and polite as possible. Do not admit fault but make sure everyone involved is okay. Whether you decide to call the police or not, you must make sure to collect the following information:
- Names and contact information from everyone involved (including witnesses)
- Car insurance information from all drivers involved (collect the policy number, name of agent and phone number)
- Vehicle information (make, model and color)
- License plate number
- Damage to your vehicle (take pictures)
- Damage to other vehicles (take pictures)
- Note the scene, location and conditions of the accident
- Description of how the accident occurred
When should the police be called to the scene of an accident?
Call 911 immediately if anyone is injured or either car is seriously damaged. If you're unsure of the severity of your accident, call the police, it's always better to err on the side of caution.
If a driver does not have a valid license or proper insurance, the police should be called. It is illegal for someone to be driving uninsured and/or without a license.
In the event of a hit and run, call the police right away and gather as much information about the driver and their vehicle as you can (i.e. description of the driver, license plate information, make and color of the car).
When a police officer arrives at the scene of an accident, they will assess the situation by documenting damage, calling for medical help (if necessary) and tending to other immediate needs. The officer will take statements from all drivers involved and interview any witnesses. After they have gathered all the essential information a report will be filed.
Write down the name and badge number of the police officer(s) at the scene. The insurance company handling the claim will likely ask for this information. It will also make it easier for you to access the police report from the accident.
How long after does an insurance claim need to be made?
Don't wait, call the insurance company and make a claim immediately following the accident the incident. The events of the accident are still fresh in your mind and will need to be documented by the insurance agent. Tell them everything they need to know about the accident, be sure not to leave anything out.
Insurance companies can sometimes be a pain to work with and the longer you wait to make a claim the more complicated it the process will get.