We hear a lot about how to avoid car accidents. Stay focused on the road. Don’t get distracted by other passengers in the car, or by the radio, or worst of all, by your phone. If the weather is bad, pull over and wait for the worst of it to past, or better yet, don’t go out at all unless it’s an emergency. That’s all pretty good advice, but it ignores the fact that some accidents just aren’t preventable, at least not by you. The guy who T-bones your car because he ran a red light could have prevented it, but he didn’t, and you can’t go back in time and make him pay more attention. Sometimes you can’t prevent something bad from happening, but you instead have to figure out how to respond to it.
Call the police
Laws for reporting accidents vary tremendously by jurisdiction, but it’s rarely a bad idea to call emergency responders, either via 911 or through the local non-emergency dispatch number. It’s better to have police and paramedics on hand and not need them than vice versa. Police can act as neutral parties when there’s a dispute about who is at fault for the accident, and even if no one gets a ticket for, say, reckless driving or speeding, it’s always good to have a police report available to send to your insurance company. If an ambulance responds to the scene, they may take a look at you and decide you should go to the hospital. In most cases, you can refuse transport if you feel like it’s not that bad. If your injuries are minor, you may just want to take yourself to an immediate care center rather than pay the cost of an ambulance ride to the emergency room.
Contact your insurance
Insurance companies, by the way, should be the second call you make after summoning first responders. If there’s any damage at all to any of the cars involved in the accident, your insurance company needs to know. There will be times when another involved party will beg you not to call your insurance company. Instead, they’ll offer to pay for the repairs to your car in cash. It’s up to you if you want to take that deal, but most of the time, it’s way more trouble than it’s worth. That’s also true if you’re the presumed party at fault. Sure, it’s understandable to worry about your insurance rates going up, but going through the official channels is usually simpler than trying to work out a deal under the table. If the guy who says he’s going to pay for your car repairs suddenly disappears, then you’ll have to make an insurance claim anyway, and the details of the accident won’t be as fresh in your mind.
Another good reason to call your insurance company is the remote but still real possible of future civil suits. If someone sustained major injuries in the accident, they may end up hiring personal injury lawyers down the line, especially if they feel like the driver who caused the accident was negligent somehow. If you’re the person being sued, then your insurance company has lawyers who will represent you in court. But they can’t represent you if they don’t know an accident occurred in the first place.