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Are you prepared for a fender bender?

• Jul 16, 2018 at 12:25 PM

The warm summer months are synonymous with several things – sun, time with family and friends, and an increase in people heading out on their summer road trips.

While this is exciting for anyone looking to enjoy the warm months, there is an increase in drivers on the road this time of the year which can increase the chances of collisions between drivers. AAA East Central is advising motorists to familiarize themselves with their responsibilities and options so that they aren’t caught off guard in the instance that they are in a crash.

“It’s very important to keep a cool head and think things through in such a challenging time,” says Brett Schurter, Vice President of Insurance, AAA East Central. “You want to make sure you do everything you can to limit or prevent any additional injuries or property damage.”

Your responsibilities and options after a crash:

Make sure you stop! Most state laws require you to stop for any collision with a moving vehicle, a parked vehicle, a pedestrian, or someone’s property. If you drive away, even if the collision isn’t your fault, you could be charged with a hit and run, which has severe penalties.

Start by taking a deep breath… Collect your thoughts before you act, and keep tensions under control. Make sure you turn the engine off and turn off any accessories (like headlights) that aren’t necessary. Most importantly, be polite and don’t accuse anyone of causing the crash.

Check for injuries. Carefully survey the scene around you, and evaluate your condition. Are you injured? Can you safely exit your car? Immediately take care of any injuries and obtain medical assistance if required. It is usually best not to move someone who is badly injured, since it could make the injury worse. Move them only to avoid the chance of being hit by other vehicles or to pull them out of a hazardous situation, such as a burning car.

Prevent additional injuries. Individuals involved in minor collisions, with minor or no injuries, should consider moving their vehicles to the side of the road so other traffic does not collide with them. If the vehicles are damaged so badly that they can’t be moved, turn on the emergency flashers and set out warning triangles or emergency flares if it is safe to do so.

Call the police or highway patrol (911) even if the crash seems minor. Be prepared to provide your exact location so they can reach you quickly. Explain the situation and be sure to mention any injuries to determine if an ambulance and/or fire engine is needed.

Cooperate with the police as they fill out their report and respond honestly to questions and be specific: “I was traveling at 35 miles per hour,” and so on – just the facts. Don’t complicate things for yourself by saying, “It’s my fault” to anyone at the crash scene, including the officer taking the report. Get the names and badge numbers of the police officers and other first responders involved. Write down the police department(s) involved. Ask the officers when and where you can get a copy of the police report if one is made. Some police departments will not fill out a report if the damage is minor and there are no injuries.

Exchange information.

From you: Give each driver involved in the crash your name, driver’s license number, home address, phone number(s), and insurance company and policy number information.

From the other driver(s): Get the same information and record the color, make, model, year, and license plate number for each car involved. Get the names and phone numbers of any passengers.

Gather as much information as safely possible. Sketch out the crash and positions of the vehicles involved. Note the exact location of the crash and how it happened. Record the date, time, weather, and road conditions when it occurred. Photograph the crash location and the cars involved if it is safe to do so. Also, record the damage to your car and photograph it, if possible.

Report the crash. Make sure you report the crash to your insurance company immediately so they can start the claims process and get your vehicle repaired or replaced. Consider calling from the scene of the crash to facilitate this. Additionally, when you get home, write a detailed account of what happened as soon as you can. Include all the details you recorded at the scene: the time of day, weather conditions, and road conditions. This account will be very useful when filing an insurance report, or later if you are involved in a court case because of the crash.

Accident report. Remember that most states require that an accident report be filed within a few days of a crash if the damage exceeds a minimum cost, or if any injuries were involved.

Other recommendations:

• Don’t discuss the financial limits of your auto insurance policy.

• Don’t discuss who is responsible for the crash with anyone other than your insurance company.

• Don’t sign anything at the scene of the crash other than the police report (or your citation, if one is issued).

• Refer anyone who calls you regarding the crash to your claims adjustor.

Review your insurance. When you receive your insurance renewal, review your discounts, coverage, and options. For example, if you have retired or are no longer working, you likely won’t need wage loss protection. Or, if you have a teen driver that has completed a safe driving course or is eligible for a good-student discount, you could potentially be saving money. AAA offers free insurance reviews to members and the general public. Call your local branch for more information, or visit AAA.com/AutoInsurance.

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