Car accidents can be very traumatic, and the shock of the accident can make it hard for the victim to keep a clear head, make the right decisions, and gather correct information at the scene of the crash.
Whether it was a simple fender bender or a significant crash, if you are hit by another driver, the first thing you should do is call the police or have a witness call for you. If the accident was not your fault, having an official police report will go a long way in holding the at-fault driver accountable for damages and repair costs. Also, you avoid working out reparations with the at-fault driver on your own, even if they do not want to get the police involved – Always protect yourself first!
A police report will also help you handle an insurance claim (this will help speed up the insurance claim process). You can always request the police report from the Virginia DMV after the crash.
Next, if you didn’t sustain any serious injuries in the accident (always put your health first!), you should make sure to walk around the scene of the accident and document any relevant information that will support that the other driver was at fault in the accident.
What Information Should You Document at a Car Accident?
If you are involved in an accident, you will need to collect several pieces of information at the scene of the crash (or have a friend or family member document for you if you are unable). This information will help you immensely as you move through the insurance claim process.
You should document the following:
- The other driver’s name and contact information.
- The names and contact information of passengers in the other driver’s car.
- The other driver’s car insurance company and policy information.
- The make, model, and color of the other driver’s car.
- The names and contact information of witnesses to the accident.
- The responding police officer’s name, contact information, and badge number.
*important note: only speak with the other driver about the information above. Do not speak with the at-fault driver about the accident or who is at fault – leave that discussion for the police and your insurance company*
While you wait for the police to arrive, it is also a good idea to write down as much information about the details of the crash as possible (if you do not have a pen and paper, you can use a notes app on your phone to record everything you can remember).
What details should you write down?
You should try to describe:
- The direction each car was traveling.
- The location of the crash.
- The weather conditions.
- Any other circumstances you think might be relevant.
*Photos of the accident are extremely important, so make sure to take photos from all angles of the crash and damage to the cars*
Okay, so you have documented all relevant information and now you are wondering which insurance company you should call – do you call your own insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company?
Which Insurance Company Should You Call if You Were the Victim of a Car Accident?
You should call your insurance company after a car accident. They can tell you what kind of coverage you have for personal injury, collisions, damages, and medical expenses. You may also have uninsured motorist coverage which would be used if the other driver does not have insurance coverage (In Virginia, drivers are not required to have insurance to operate a vehicle. Instead, uninsured drivers are required to pay a $500 fee to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to operate their vehicle without an insurance plan).
Depending on the services you need, your insurance company will pay for your repairs and medical bills before working with the at-fault party’s insurance company to recover compensation. This is a stress-free solution because everything is billed directly to your insurance company meaning you won’t need to communicate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company at all.
Car accidents are traumatic events, especially if you’re involved in a crash that occurred through no fault of your own. You might feel frightened, in shock or in pain after a high-impact collision, and not sure how to proceed next.
If you were in a minor crash, have insurance coverage, and have documented all the evidence you need, you should be able to settle quickly and stress-free on your own. Our office provides free books, webinars, and other resources for people in small crashes attempting to settle the case on their own.
If your accident was severe (i.e., broken bones, time spent in the ER, etc.) and you feel that you can recover more money from your accident, you should approach an attorney to seek guidance on your next steps – the last thing you want is to make a wrong decision in a serious accident case when you could have asked an experienced personal injury attorney for advice on your next steps.