Nobody leaves their house for work or school thinking, “this is it—today I'm going to get into an accident on my way to where I'm going.” Yet, our daily commutes are filled with visions of auto collisions that leave us thinking thoughts of gratitude that we have been spared, and wishing good thoughts to those unfortunate enough to be involved. Why is this worth mentioning? Because the inability to anticipate that an accident could happen to you is in part what makes the aftermath of an accident such an intimidating experience. Simply put, because we weren't expecting it, we don't know what to do about it. This means we end up making mistakes that cost us in the long run. Anticipating calamity and knowing what to do about it can help minimize its negative impact upon us. Here are four ways to protect yourself from common mistakes people make following a collision.
Stay at the scene. Even if it seems to you that it was just a case of one bumper nicking the other, and that there isn't much to report, resist the urge to panic and race off. Failure to stay at the scene automatically puts you in a suspicious position because typically, people associate fleeing with guilt. If you remain at the scene, you demonstrate your responsibility, and communicate that you have nothing to hide...and if you don't, you can be sure that you will be caught, and that the consequences for driving away will be far worse than anything you might have feared just from staying at the scene to begin with.
Report the accident. If you've managed to stay at the scene, good work: that's the first thing you did right. However, you may find yourself and the other party engaged in a dialogue that is motivated by the same kind of fear that would prompt you to speed off to begin with—fear of what consequences there may be for each of you if the accident is reported. Never agree to not report the accident. For one, there is no reason to believe that the other party will not turn around and report it without you. In such a case, you will appear to be more culpable and guilty because you did not follow procedure. Contacting the police is the best way to protect both parties and to ensure the fairest possible outcome.
Don't rush to find fault—with either party. Any insurance provider seeking to equip you with the best advice possible in terms of dealing with collisions will tell you that you must never admit fault. The reasons that people rush to admit fault are well-intentioned: they are trying to be honest. However, it is very often the case that a driver believes himself or herself to be at fault when in fact they are not. Reporting the accident will enable law officials to accurately determine fault—this really is not your responsibility. Conversely, don't rush to blame the other party either. Emotions and tensions are already running high, and exacerbating this will only slow down the process of quickly and effectively resolving things.
Record, record, record. The more details you record at the time of the accident, the better the expected outcome for yourself. For the purpose of insurance claims, you want to record as much information as you can about the other party's vehicle, including the make, model, and year, as well as license plate number. You'll also want detailed contact information for the other driver. In terms of recording details about the actual accident itself, use every means available to you. Write down as much as you can in terms of how the accident played out (being as objective as possible) because you will forget these details very quickly. Also, technology is on your side: you should definitley use your phone to take as many pictures as possible of the scene.