Heading Out on Your Own — Day 12: What to Do If You Get in a Car Accident

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 12, 2012 · 49 comments

in Heading Out On Your Own

Getting in a car accident is no fun. I can still remember my first (and only!) accident. It happened just a few weeks after I turned 16. Rear-ended a guy. My small, but noble Isuzu Hombre was no match for the other guy’s giant Ford F-150. The front end of my comparatively small pick-up was swallowed underneath the rear bumper of the truck I hit. While he had just a few dings, my vehicle was totaled.

I remember getting out of my truck feeling sort of shell-shocked. I made sure the other person was okay and was relieved to find out that I hadn’t maimed or injured anyone.  By then, my friends who had been driving behind me arrived at the scene of the crash. They tried to console me, but all I did was pace back and forth, pointing at my car and yelling “MY CAR IS SCREWED!” over and over again like a crazy man. Not my finest moment. My friends thought it was the funniest thing in the world, however, and still rib me about it.

I had no clue what I was supposed to do in a car accident, but I knew someone who did: dear old Mom. I called my mom on my 1999 Motorola MicroTac (eat your heart out Zach Morris), and she was on the scene in no time flat, ready to basically take care of things for me.

But what would have happened if I had gotten in the accident when I was a few years older and hundreds of miles away from home at college? Would I have known how to handle the situation correctly without Mom and Dad? Probably not.

To avoid pulling a Brett and going crazy when you get in an accident, read this article and prepare yourself.

Note: This advice applies to accidents when it is obvious you are not seriously injured. If you are, call 911 immediately, or if you cannot, hope that someone else will, and wait for the ambulance to arrive.

Stay calm. Now is not the time to lose your cool. Keep your wits about yourself.

Safety is your top priority. Your first priority is to maintain the safety of everyone involved in the accident and to take actions to prevent more smash-ups and injuries. If the accident is minor and the cars are still functioning, move them off or to the side of the road.

If the cars aren’t going anywhere without a tow truck, turn on your  hazard lights, exit the vehicle when it’s safe to do so, and walk to the side of the road and out of traffic. Ideally, you should have a warning triangle or flares in your car’s emergency kit. Place those on the road to give other drivers a heads up on the accident. You don’t want another car plowing into your pile-up.

Check for injuries. Ask everyone who was in the car with you if they’re okay. Then check on the driver and passengers of the other car. Call 911 for an ambulance if needed.

Call the police. After an accident, the other person involved might suggest not calling the police and settling things between just the two of you. Ignore him and call the police, even if it’s just a minor fender bender. Here’s why:

By law, you may be required to call the police. In most states, you’re only required to call the authorities after a car accident if someone has been injured, the accident is blocking traffic, or property damage (including cars) is above a certain monetary amount. Failure to comply with the law could result in an additional fine, so don’t try to judge for yourself if those requirements have been met. Let the police dispatcher decide that. After you’ve described the accident to the dispatch, they may or may not decide to send officers to the scene. If they don’t, they’ll usually tell you to file an accident report at a station or online.

A police report can help establish liability. The insurance companies of the respective drivers will work together to determine fault. One of the most credible documents the insurers will use in doing so is an official police report. Without a report, figuring out liability becomes an issue of he said/she said. If you were the one hit, you definitely want a police report. I know a few instances where people didn’t call the police after an accident, and ultimately regretted not doing so. Those involved exchanged information, but when the drivers who were hit called the offending drivers’ insurance companies to make a claim, the offending drivers denied the whole thing and accused the victim drivers of insurance fraud. That wouldn’t have happened with a police report.

Even if you are responsible for the accident, you should still call the police. It could be the case that the driver you hit contributed to the accident and shares responsibility, or there may have been factors beyond your control that reduce your responsibility. If you don’t want to be held completely liable for the accident and have your insurance rates jacked up, get that information in an official police report.

Even if the police don’t come, file a report as soon as you can. At least you’ll have your side of the story on record. That can help in the insurance claim.

A police report can protect you from fraud. You come to a red light and roll to a stop behind a car. The light turns green and as the car in front of you begins driving forward, so do you. All of sudden, the car in front of you immediately stops, causing you to rear-end the other driver. While it’s certainly possible the driver in front of you had a good reason to stop, it’s also possible that he’s a fraudster pulling the old “start and stop” auto-insurance scam on you.

Individuals who stage accidents in order to fraudulently collect insurance money will often suggest not calling the police and just exchanging information. But even if the accident is minor, call the police. Officers are trained at detecting staged accidents. Having them at the scene can help expose the fraud so you’re not held liable for what happened.

Having the police on the scene can keep everyone calm and collected. Emotions can run high at an accident. Having the police there to act as an impartial referee can ensure that things don’t get too heated.

Bottom line: call the police no matter what. If the accident is a minor one, don’t call 911, just call the police directly (you might want to program this number into your phone).

Before the officer leaves, get his name and badge number

Exchange information with the other driver. You’ll want to exchange the following information with the other driver:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Email
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance company
  • Policy number

You don’t need a Social Security Number in order to file a police report or claim. If a driver or even the police ask for it, politely, but firmly say, “You don’t need that information in order to file a claim/report.”

You should always have a pen and notebook in your car, so you can write down the details we mention above and below. Alternatively, many insurance companies now offer extremely useful apps that not only allow you to record the details of the accident, but also have features which help you “draw” the scene of the accident, take photos, collect witness observations, jot down notes, and file a claim.

Write down the information about the car accident. After you’ve exchanged information with the other driver, write down the following information about the accident itself:

  • Time
  • Location of accident (It also doesn’t hurt to draw a rough sketch of how you think the accident went down)
  • Description of other car, including: make, model, year, color, license plate number, and any visible damage
  • Description of individuals involved in accident, including passengers

Take plenty of pictures. Use the camera on your cellphone to document the vehicle damage. The more pictures the better. Keep in mind that you want your photos to show the overall context of the accident so that you can make your case to a claims adjuster. Take pictures from a distance to show the accident in its entirety, as well as pictures up close to show property damage. If there are any skid marks, take pictures of those too. If you think you were responsible for the accident, take pictures of the car you hit from the rear, front, and sides. That way, if the driver accuses you of causing damage to his car that existed prior to the accident, you’ll be able to prove he’s lying.

Get witness information. If there are witnesses, try to get their information including their name, address, and phone number. Their observations can help your case in assigning liability.

Don’t admit fault or assign blame. Even if it’s obvious whose fault the accident was, don’t ever admit fault or assign blame. That’s for the police and insurance companies to figure out. While it may pain your inner-gentleman (and Louis C.K.) to do so, don’t say “I’m sorry.” It’s an admission of fault. As soon as you exchange information with the driver and find out he or she is okay, zip your lip and keep discussion to a minimum. You don’t want to say anything that could be used against you during the insurance claims process or police report. The only people you want to talk to about the accident are the police and your insurance company.

Call your insurance company. Regardless of fault, call your insurance company and report the accident as soon as possible. If it is your fault, your policy likely requires that you do so. Calling your insurer to report the accident also ensures you get your side of the story on record before the other driver files a claim. That can put you at an advantage in reducing the amount the other driver claims.

If the accident is the other driver’s fault, you have the option to call their insurance company and file a claim on your own without even letting your own company know about the accident. But it’s probably better that your insurance company files the claim on your behalf. The other driver’s insurer is going to do whatever it can to give you the least amount of money. Instead of trying to fight a giant corporation for the money you deserve, let another giant corporation (your insurance company) do the fighting for you.

When you call the insurance company, give them your information, when and where the accident occurred, and the insurance information of the other driver. If the other driver didn’t have insurance, give the driver’s name and address. Let the agent know that a police report has been filed and that you took pictures.

Your insurance company will send out an adjuster to look at your car and give you an estimate on the damage. The other driver’s company will also send out their own adjuster to get their own estimate. The two insurance companies will duke it out on what amount you’ll get or what insurance will pay, depending on who’s at fault.

After you’ve called the insurance company, everything else sort of takes care of itself. You’ll likely be told what shop to take your car to. If you need a car while yours is getting repaired, the insurance company will pay for it. Barring any injuries, your life will likely go back to normal soon enough.

What Should I Do If I Hit a Parked Car?

You’re driving in the parking lot and in a moment of carelessness you run into an unattended parked car. While it may be tempting to just hightail it out of there and let no one be the wiser, you should try to find the owner or at least leave a note for two very good reasons. First, it’s just the right thing to do. You made a mistake that damaged someone’s property, so you should shoulder the responsibility of getting the car repaired.

Second, you’re required by law to find the owner or at least leave a note. Hitting an unattended parked car and leaving the scene without contacting the owner or leaving a note with your information constitutes a hit and run violation. If you were tracked down somehow (which gets easier and easier, especially with parking lot cameras and witnesses with smartphones), you’d likely face a heavy fine for leaving the scene of an accident on top of having to pay for the damages you caused when you hit the car.

So what’s the protocol if you a hit an unattended parked car?

First, get out and assess the damage. If you totally smashed the car, you should probably go ahead and call the police. But if it’s just a fender bender or busted taillight, there’s no need to call the cops.  With your cellphone camera, take lots of pictures of the front, sides, and rear of the car you hit. You don’t want the owner trying to milk you and your insurance company for damages you didn’t cause.

After you’ve taken pictures and if it’s possible, find the owner and give him your information, including your name, phone number, insurance company, and policy number. If you can’t find the owner, leave a note on the windshield of the car with the same information. The vehicle’s owner may or may not call you.  They’ll likely just call your insurance company to file a claim. If they do call and are irate, just stay calm, tell the person to get in touch with your insurance company, and hang-up.

Any other tips for handling a car accident? Have a crazy story about your first car wreck? Share with us in the comments.

 

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gary V August 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I got out of having to do a lot of the work when I got in my first auto accident when I was 17, mostly due to an enormous nose bleed from kissing the steering wheel upon impact. I was even taken to the hospital to be examined. I was fine though and walked the 5 blocks home. Yeah, small town. Also did have my seat belt on, but it was a 70 Nova, so all I had was a lap belt. Poor car :(

All that somewhat prepared me for my 2nd accident six or so months later, when snow packed roads and bad driving on everyone’s part resulted in a minor fender bender. I was ruled to be at fault for sliding over the center line. (my target started on my side, ended back on his) That’s one to learn from.

All this information however, is great for the young person who hasn’t been in these situations. Especially hitting a parked car (I’ve done that in a rather spectacular way too) I especially like the advice about taking pictures. This wasn’t available when I was young. Heck, you could even include recording eyewitness statements on your phone too.

2 Brian August 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

When collecting information from another driver, ask to see their license and verify the information that they are giving you (name, etc.). Also make sure to take a picture of the other person’s license plate. I learned this after somebody rear ended me. We exchanged information while waiting for the police (although her info was fake), and she got in her car and left the scene before the cops arrived. We hadn’t taken pics of her plate yet and had no way to track her down.

3 Jordan August 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

In my area, hit and runs are common. Before exiting the vehicle, no matter who is at fault, take out your cell phone and start video recording. First find the other vehicles license plate, then record the face of the driver. After those two things, you can put the phone up and act like a normal human being, but if the other driver decides to book it, you have great evidence for the responding officer.

4 Mark August 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm

This is very helpful. I have had my driver’s license for almost 6 months. This adds a lot of clarity to what I learned in driving school. Filing an accident report was something I had never even thought about, but it makes sense!

5 Andrew August 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Timely advice! I rear ended a car just yesterday, freaked me out and was shaking. We went up and reported it to the cops, then with my onboard toolkit, I just knocked the few bits and pieces I could back into place, there and then. Should save time when it comes to fixing my poor car, and a bit of money too.

6 Michael August 12, 2012 at 11:18 pm

In the aftermath of an accident that is not your fault, if the at-fault driver’s insurance company is giving you the run-around and not helping you the way they should, don’t be afraid to consult an attorney (or threaten to do so). While we live in a much too litigious society and I don’t think this should be anyone’s first response, some companies are easy to work with while others will do whatever they can to not pay for your rental car, medical bills, lost wages, etc. If that is the case, a good attorney will usually get everything paid for and not cost you anything. Just don’t pick an ambulance-chasing slimeball

7 Nathan August 12, 2012 at 11:20 pm

This literally happened to me a few days ago. my first car got totaled in a “start-stop” off a red light with the addition of a few things out of my control. No one was injured i was just rattled, basically the same thing that happened to you. Its like you wrote this article about my life this last week.

8 Glier August 13, 2012 at 12:08 am

Watch out will training young lads:

My brother, who got his first car at 17 was drive training with my mother, was in a street crossing (4 ways) and learning how to respond to street light, street was desserted, no car in any direction; 2 seconds after green light a giant black truck speeding his obviously red light passed just inches in front of him. If his manual car havent stuck on gear change, he would surely be dead by now.

Moral of story: even if you know how to drive properly, stupid people (who doesnt glow to take oneself care from them) also can drive a half ton metal lingot an a dosen quarts of highly fammable liquid like they own the street with the least of care of who’s life they take in their way. Be educated, be toughtful and be wary on those around you.

Like my moms grandpa said once, be wary of the asshole in front, the meathead on the tail and the stupid on the sides

9 Jamie A. Thom August 13, 2012 at 12:39 am

“call 911 immediately, or if you cannot, hope that someone else will”

Be very aware of the Bystander Effect. If you are injured, but at least concious, look any one bystander straight in the eye and say: “You, sir, in the blue jacket. I need medical assistance. Please call an ambulance straight away.”

Make it really clear who you are addressing and what the action you want them to take is. Doing this takes that person out of the By Stander arena wondering if they should intervene and gives them a specific purpose and action.

10 Paul August 13, 2012 at 1:33 am

Parking lots are gray areas in some states. If its private property and there are no injuries the police usually won’t respond. This happened to a friend of mine in a Target parking lot. His parked motorcycle was hit by another car and the guy fled. He knew who hit it and the security cameras caught it but all he could do was file a claim and go fill out a police report at the station. Not hit and run charges were filed. I’m not sure if this varies but all around great article! :)

11 Bowen August 13, 2012 at 3:46 am

Jamie, thanks for the cool information about the bystander effect. I had an accident once and was so shocked that people were just staring at me. Thank God, there was one bystander who took the initiative to help me.

12 Norskeren August 13, 2012 at 5:21 am

If the crash involves someone going faster than 60kmph, call for an ambulance and get them to a hospital ASAP! They can appear to be just fine, but internal damages are impossible to spot with the naked eye.

I’ve spent this summer working as a firefighter, and I’ve heard more than one story where there’s a car crash and the person driving is standing up on his own, talking to the police/paramedics only to suddenly collapse and die due to internal bleeding.

Point is, if a car that appears to go fast crashes, get the persons involved to a hospital NO MATTER WHAT!

13 Xenocles August 13, 2012 at 6:05 am

Some areas want you to call 911 for the police even in non-emergencies. I got rear-ended in the Bremerton, WA area a few years ago. Since everyone was fine, I called up the local PD. The person who answered told me to hang up and call 911. I started that next call with “This is not an emergency” just to be sure, and the call went fine.

14 Greg August 13, 2012 at 6:15 am

This is great advice, especially how important it is to call the police, even if the accident is your fault.

I got in a very minor start-stop accident at a traffic light when I was 17 (my fault). There was no damage to either car, and the other driver was fine, so I didn’t call the police. Fast forward a year or so and – surprise! – come home to find a subpoena taped to the front door. The other driver had decided to sue me for $100,000 for “severe and continuing injuries” caused in a car accident that didn’t even dent the bumper. And with no police report, the whole thing was basically he said/she said.

So, always, always, always get a police report!

15 guy August 13, 2012 at 7:39 am

Make sure to obtain the police report as soon as it is available (a few days after the accident) and check it for accuracy.
I was involved in a deer-related pile-up. I was in the right lane and the driver in the left lane swerved to avoid the deer and the other cars and stopped in my lane. I rear-ended him. When the police arrived they decided to clear the right lane for traffic and helped me push my car to the left lane (it was no longer drivable).
The police report then said that I was following too closely in the left lane!
It took me almost two weeks to track down the officer and have the report amended. If I hadn’t succeeded I would be buying a new car myself instead of having the other guy’s insurance paying for it.
guy

16 Philip W August 13, 2012 at 8:50 am

this is the second post I commented on. I am sixteen and gettting my licence in the month. I am going to keep a copy of this in my car. This makes so much sense.

17 Michele C August 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

Brett and Kay, thanks for a great post. I am a personal injury lawyer (or slimy ambulance chaser, depending on your point of view). Every day I review accident reports, listen to my client’s version of events and work with the insurance companies. What I have learned from my job is that most people are good drivers, but sometimes even a good driver is distracted or lost in thought or makes a bad decision. There are also bad drivers who are simply reckless. You can be a better and safer driver by paying more attention at intersections. Even if you have the green light, don’t automatically assume it’s safe to enter: slow down a bit and LOOK BOTH WAYS to make sure that one of those bad or distracted drivers isn’t barreling through the intersection. People often think that because they have the right of way, they don’t have to look out for other cars. As far as liability goes, you may be right. But it’s not worth the risk of serious injuries just because you are right.

18 Jim H August 13, 2012 at 9:21 am

I would elevate the “take photos” item to just below dealing with safety and injury issues.

We were involved in an accident a couple of months ago in which the other driver, who was at fault, first refused to move her car out of the way of oncoming traffic. She grew more uncooperative as we exchanged information. Later she disputed everything we told her insurance company about the accident. Quick thinking, including taking photos of the scene and her license plate, driver’s license, and insurance policy, is all that stood between the truth and her driving off prematurely, leaving us with little information and no evidence.

19 Alex A August 13, 2012 at 9:51 am

As an EMT I would highly suggest not getting out if the vehicle if you were going faster than 25MPH. In an accident your adrenaline is pumping and you might not even know your neck is broken. If you damage or break parts of your c-spine you can sever the nerve that controls your diaphragm. Also, call 911 first and foremost. Never wait to call. You can always call back if its more or less serious than you think. Unless your cars are blocking the road completely or its dangerous not to (like on the highway), don’t move your cars! Wait for the police to arrive. After determining scene safety it will probably be the first the the police do anyways.

20 MADMAX August 13, 2012 at 9:51 am

Thanks. I’d like to see more practical and realistic manly articles like these rather than ‘how to sew a button’, i.e. more geared towards life crisis, etc

21 Steve August 13, 2012 at 9:57 am

As a current insurance agent, I think the most important thing to do is make sure you are adequately insured BEFORE an accident happens. Many drivers out there are being talked into paying the lowest premiums possible but are not aware that they have been issued state minimum coverage. In my state, the minimum required liability insurance coverage is $15,000 per person/ $30,000 per accident and $5000 in property damage. These limits are usually inadequate for the kinds of damage you can do to someone else’s car and in the event of an injury. With cars more and more expensive and intricate, it has become much, much easier to do $5,000 worth of damage with most minor of accidents. And our agency has seen many cases where the limits of their auto insurance policies have been exhausted. In the event of a bodily injury lawsuit, any settlement above those low limits one might have is going to come out of the person’s pocket. And most people do not have $85,000 to spare when trying to make up the rest of a $100,000 settlement.
It would also be a good idea to go with a company that offers local agents, rather than trying to call 1 (800) Who’s-This when you have an accident.. These are a valuable resource to utilize when making any changes to your policy. It is the #1 thing our customers value in their insurance company.

22 Braxo August 13, 2012 at 10:06 am

The most important rule is to always call the police no matter who was at fault.

When I was a teenager, a woman rear-ended me and gave me false information after insisting there was no reason to call police. At my age, I didn’t know better and agreed.

I was lucky though for the fact that I was not hurt nor was there much damage to my vehicle. (She hit the full sized spare on my Wrangler which I had hoped to replace.)

23 Daniel M August 13, 2012 at 11:09 am

This is great. I’m 23 years old and on my second car, but have never been in an accident before. No one has ever told me what to do in that event, so thanks!

24 Srinivas Kari August 13, 2012 at 11:15 am

I had a motorcycle accident. A guy was riding on a bicycle and I rear ended the guy. Fortunately, nothing happened to either of us. I wasn’t wearing my helmet and I almost lost my right eye. I immediately asked the people to send me to a hospital instead of beating me up. A policeman took me to the nearest hospital where I received treatment for my injuries

25 Nick August 13, 2012 at 11:36 am

My sister hit a parked car when she was 17. When she told us when she got home that she had hit the car. My dad asked if she had talked to the owner. Nope. Had she left a note with her info? Nope. He then asked what did you do??!!!!! “I left a $20 & a note that said sorry.” Needless to say my dad was irate. And I was glad that I was off the hook for pretty much everything I was going to do for the next couple months.

26 Charlie Anderson August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm

In most places in the UK you can phone the police on 101 if it’s not an emergency.

27 Cameron August 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm

As a personal injury attorney, I agree with Steve about adequate insurance. In particular, higher limits will give you higher uninsured and underinsured coverage, which is where you are most likely to feel the pinch of a bargain policy. $250k absolute minimum, I’d recommend $500k or more.

28 Bernard August 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I know I should have written this on the first post of this series, but I am struggling with IRONING, especially button-down shirts.

Keep up!!

29 Rusty August 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm

One thing I see that was left off is to write down the VIN of the other vehicle involved, especially if they are responsible for the accident. Not every state has DMV records available to your insurance company so they may not be able to run the license plate of the other vehicle. If the other party gives you fake insurance information then your insurance company can use the VIN to search for insurance that way.

30 Brian August 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm

As a police officer, one of the most important things to do AFTER the accident, is to read the police report. If you catch a police officer on the 10th-11th hour of a 12 hour shift, and hes already had 5 cases that day, hes bound to make a mistake. Make sure everything is accurate.

My other piece of advice, make sure all of your paperwork is up to date. Make sure your registration, insurance, emissions, inspections, road taxes, drivers license, and any other require paperwork are current. It’s a lot to keep track of. Don’t get in an accident and realize your insurance expired 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately that’s another citation.

31 Asher August 14, 2012 at 1:35 am

Is saying “I’m sorry” an admission of guilt even if I’m Canadian? Up here the term is as much guilt as it is simple and solemn sympathy.

32 Greg August 14, 2012 at 4:18 am

Use a piece of chalk to mark the locations of the wheels, of all vehicles involved, on the road. You can then move the cars without losing important info.

33 Jake August 14, 2012 at 4:30 am

It’s interesting that you don’t mention road rage. In my experience the first thing to worry about is that the guy you hit isn’t going to come through the window swinging!

34 Steven August 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

Just leaving a note can be problematic in some countries. In Germany it is NOT enough to just put a note with your adress or a business card on the windshield and then leave the scene.

Speaking for Germany, you HAVE to wait until the owner of the damaged vehicle shows up and if he’s not, call the police. Otherwise it is considered hit and run.

35 David August 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm

As a younger 16-year-old me, I once hit a parked car. I fled the scene, drove home, and instantly got on google.

my google inquiry:
“what to do if you hit a parked car”

googles response:
“don’t flee the scene”
crap. panic set-in.

I instantly drove to the county police station, knocked on the door, and told them I was a “runner” in a “hit and run”.

The cop and I drove to the lot together to inspect the damage.

I guess I just really like a clean conscious.

36 Jon Coburn August 15, 2012 at 9:08 am

In addition to the officer’s name and badge number, ensure that you get an occurrence number.
If you later have to contact the police get a copy of the police report, or for any other reason, there is nothing more annoying to the dispatcher or receptionist to hear someone say, “I was in a car accident last thursday, can you get me this information.” Depending on how busy your police force is, finding that police report may be like a needle in a haystack.

37 Amy August 18, 2012 at 8:59 am

Take it from someone who has been in multiple car crashes. One of the FIRST things you want to do is find your witnesses. Trust me, unless it’s a really bad collision, witnesses will not stick around, and (at least in Canada) there are no laws compelling witnesses to give a statement. In my experiences, despite smashing cars during the busiest times of days there’s rarely any witnesses. (Maybe everyone was too engrossed in texting while driving and missed the big collision in front of them). I have been charged with “running a red light” when the the light was still green as I entered the intersection only to have it turn amber and the guy flooring it to turn left in front of me. Because he had a passenger and I didn’t, and because they got their stories straight while waiting for the police, I was charged and found at fault for the collision when I had the right of way and did nothing illegal! If I knew then what I know now, I would have fought the entire thing.

38 Bryan Beus September 7, 2012 at 4:33 am

Great post.

One thing I wanted to add/ask:

“If the accident is minor and the cars are still functioning, move them off or to the side of the road.”

This is actually a bad thing.

One time a guy ran into me from behind while I was stopped at a stop sign.

So that people could move around us we pulled out and found a spot in a parking lot to talk things over. The two of us exchanged phone numbers. Then the other guy drove off before the police arrived.

I called the police and tried to get a report on file, but the officers told me that they could not get involved anymore. They said that once I moved my car I had changed the evidence, and so they could no longer make a clear assessment of the situation.

Thankfully the guy who hit me was honest and still covered the cost of the fender-bender, but had he not been it would have set me back a thousand bucks.

Just my experience. Anyone else had a different one?

39 Dee October 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I hit a parked car and scraped the side of the door. I tried to find the owner but to no avail nd as I didn’t have a pen and paper could not leave a note. I called the police on my lunch at work and was told I had broken the law by leaving the scene. I am now waiting for the local police to call me. Will I be in trouble. I hve tried to find the car since but its not there. I thought by logging a report with the police I could leave my details and the driver would be able to getin contct. I am really worried now

40 Alex October 23, 2012 at 11:46 am

I am a 20 year old who is going through my first car accident. It is a nightmare, the people at fault do not want to go through their insurance and are not giving me their insurance info. Currently waiting on the police report. My car got totaled and I’ve been without a car for almost a month. Complete nightmare.

41 Josiah November 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm

About a month ago I was in a hydroplaning accident that totalled my first car. I see no one mentioned it but it is imperative that if you are in a single car crash that you weigh the pros and cons of going through insurance. I ended up not going through insurance because I would have ended up paying double for the next 6 years and at that price ($3000/yr) I would have been unable to drive anyway, not to mention that my car was only worth $3500.

42 Henriette November 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm

I have learned a few things from the passenger point of view in my last two accidents. (Yeah I witnessed, or was a passenger in a lot)
First of all. If any part of the car is still on the road, do not call the police non emergency number. It is an emergency because another accident can happen because people wil want to get around it.
If anyone cannot recall the entire accident or has some type of pain, anywhere get an ambulance. In one the accidents my friend fell asleep behind the wheel ( do not drive unless well rested), turns out a lot of people think they just doozed of when in reality something more serious is going on. Also it takes a bit of time to feel the pain for real (learned that from the other accident).
My dad always told me that no matter what do not let anyone in your car after an accident. Had my dad not told me that I would have gotten into the car of a bystander. In my last accident the car hit a piece of ice, and flipped over before landing in a meadow upside down. I had a whiplash, and anytime someone with neckproblems is a car, the firemen will cut up that car. Insurance here does not cover that. Make sure you have blankets to keep people warm instead.
In general first aid kit, fire extuingers are for others not for yourself. Make sure you carry them, as well as some blankets (usefull for a lot of things). You have the moral responsiblity to react and help. Call 911, when you have witnessed an accident immediatly. Help in any way you can. Worst thing is you will be late for something. You have a good excuse for that.
An emergency hammer can come in usefull and is neccesary for your own safety if you drive by water. (I don’t know if they are common in the states. Basically they are used to cut your own seatbelt, and smash a window, when you end up in water, but is usefull in other situations as well.)
After an accident more serious than a little fender-bender, make sure you spend the next few days with somebody you trust. They will notice when something turns out to be wrong after all, whether physical or mental.

43 MJ December 13, 2012 at 12:02 pm

It is not a bad idea to look at the title or registration of the other guy’s vehicle to verify who owns it.

44 JW December 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Any advice for me? My son was involved in a car accident. A girl in the right lane of a 3-lane expressway in Minneapolis was cut off by a driver in the middle lane who swerved right, in front of her, to exit. He may or may not have hit her — witness reports and her story vary, and the trooper’s preliminary report claims she was hit on the left front fender. In any event, that driver fled the scene and she then swerved left across all three lanes of traffic and hit the guardrail, coming to a stop right in front of my son. He swerved right but still hit the far back end of her car. He was unhurt; she was taken to the hospital with very minor injuries. The car is an older Suzuki worth about $3000, but in great shape and worth much more as transportation for a college student. We do not need medical coverage; we did not have collision on the vehicle because of its age. We assumed her insurance would cover the damages caused by her crashing in front of him, but her insurance company is claiming that the accident was caused by the fleeing driver and therefore she is not responsible for damages to my son’s car. Our insurance company is so far taking the lead, but does not seem to be pursuing this very aggressively, as they are not on the hook for anything under our policy. It seems to me that, regardless of whether or not her accident was caused by a fleeing driver, her car was directly responsible for my son’s accident; therefore, shouldn’t her company pay his expenses and then go after the fleeing driver? The trooper was pretty nonchalant about finding the runner, but shouldn’t that be the problem of her insurance company? I am getting very frustrated — my son is the most blameless party in this event and he’s the one getting screwed over. Would love to hear if this has happened to anyone else and how it was resolved.

45 Teresa December 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Unfortunately, just got into a minor fender-bender at a local 7-11. Lots of rain, other driver seemed earnest but couldn’t provide license or passport (“I just got back tonight and everything’s in my luggage.”). No dings on her car, paint scratches on ours, now she’s not answering her phone, and we noticed (after we got home) that her license plate was held in place by zip ties and an expired registration.

Are we crap out of luck? I suspect as much…

46 Lorri December 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I recently got into an accident but I didn’t get any of his information, but we did file a report with the officer. I was at a stop sign and he thought he could squeeze by but he scraped my car. There was a police there and he filed a report but now the mother of that car is saying it never happened. What do I do? I have a scrape on my car but I didn’t see if he had damage on the car that wasn’t even his…… it was the passengers mother (who I assumed was his girlfriend). I’m afraid I won’t get insurance covered because they say it never happened and I don’t have any evidence, someone help me please )-:

47 Rosi February 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm

We need help, please…

My daughter was driving: we were leaving a car park of the Pavillion Supermarket in Los Angeles , she was about to turn the wheels to go straight and leave the parking and we were a bit over the center road when we got hit from the back side by car that was reversing located diagonal to us on the opposite side . my daughter advanced forward her car as the trunk got open by the impact, she got out of the car to see how badly her car was damaged. The driver of the other car also had forwards her car straight on the same positions she was parked before. I got out of the car and as I had my camera with me i took photos as i knew the other car was at fault as she reverse onto us. I asked for witness all said they saw Nothing and special a young woman that was putting her shopping on her trunk and was 4 cars away , she denied 3 times seeing anything or hearing. I continue taking photos and refuting that other driver use her bonnet as we heard nothing , then I saw the woman who denied seeing and hearing talking to other driver and now alleging she heard the bonnet … In fact we had not heard anything …. so I told her, you have told us few minutes ago that you saw nothing or heard anything and now you claim that you heard something. And pointed to see where the crash happens and how we were out of the parking ? she told yes o hear so I asked when after the accident ? so I told her see the spot , it is obvious the other driver hit us we were out of our parking lot .. the one who crashed us … she told me sorry about …I took her number …
My daughter made claim to her insurance who told her deal with the other side as I left we did not communicate , then she told me what she wrote it and I told her take measures of the parking lot and get proof that your car was out of parking when the other car hit you .. she did all her research included measures of her car and other one that crash her car and send it with a diagram on how it happen. Now her insurance is claiming it was her fault as the so-called witness stated that the other driver had used her bonnet and we could avoid the crash. We know we did NOT heard anything and we know the witness now is laying … how can prove the witness is lying? And can we appeal to my daughter insurance ? they were the one who should contact the other driver insurance not my daughter , now her insurance is raising her premium when in fact she was not fault. Any ideas??? This happen in Los Angeles 3 weeks ago…now is 7 Feb 2013… it happen on parking lot of Pavillion supermarket … thank for the help and ideas on what to do… Rosi

48 Steve February 17, 2013 at 9:47 pm

As an attorney, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people involved in car accidents who haven’t followed the suggestions above or did little after an accident, besides exchanging information with the at-fault driver.

Trust me, when I say going through these extra steps, there are some good ones mentioned above, will make things a lot easier on you down the road.

49 Ima April 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm

A month or more ago I got rear ended by an SUV at a dangerous intersection. He was tailgating me. There was a lot of traffic and I couldn’t go. He kept honking at me. Finally I thought I could go then I saw I couldn’t because it was too fast so I stopped. I felt a crash behind me when his SUV crashed into my car from behind. Luckily I was not pushed into the intersection or I would’ve been thrown into the oncoming traffic. He yelled “don’t you know how to drive” at me which I replied somethin. Then we pulled over to the side of the road. I knew this guy, he went to HS with me. He was also headed to the same community college. He told me not to go through the insurance because he didn’t want our rates to go up and not to file a police report because he didn’t want police involvment. I called the police anyways but I didn’t make a claim with my insurance(big mistake). He gave me his name & number. At first I thought it was just a fenderbender but recently, I noticed the trunk won’t close(it was broken because of the accident). I don’t have the polcie officer’s badge or dispatcher number. I just have the guy’s number. I think, I have to check the papers I got. My mom is afraid the guy will claim the accident never happened. What can I do?

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