My youngest son, Jonathan, and his girlfriend, Olivia, were driving in the Lake Highlands areas of Dallas two weeks ago. The rain was coming down in sheets when they approached an intersection. Coming from the opposite direction, was a Jeep being driven by a high school student. He did not see Olivia and Jonathan and made an unprotected left turn in front of them. Olivia slammed on her brakes which kept her from hitting the Jeep head on or along the driver’s side. She was unable to miss the back corner and ripped his bumper off while wrinkling the hood and passenger front fender of her car. The good news is no one was hurt!
I got a call from Jonathan within minutes of the accident. He had two questions he needed answered:
- What do I do?
- What information do I need to get?
These two questions come up frequently after one of my clients is involved in an accident, regardless of who’s at fault. Their emotions are heightened from the accident and they want to make sure they don’t forget anything in the moment.
First things first, what to do:
- Make sure everyone in your car is not injured.
- Can you safely get out of the car to check on the passengers in the other vehicle? If so, determine whether anyone in the other car is injured.
- If someone requires medical attention, call 911.
- Do not attempt to move someone who’s injured unless absolutely needed. You could make their injuries worse or permanent.
- Most police departments in Texas’ major cities will not respond to a two car fender bender unless someone’s injured or driving without insurance.
- Police and fire personnel are usually dispatched to an accident scene involving 3 or more cars.
- If police do arrive, get the officer’s name and find out if they will file a police report of the accident. These reports may be helpful or needed by your insurance company in certain circumstances.
- Can you safely move the cars out of an intersection or the flow of traffic to a parking lot, a side street, or the shoulder of the road?
- If so, do that, you’re safer there. If not, call a wrecker.
- Remain calm and avoid confrontation or arguing with the other person.
- If the person attempts to drive off, do not pursue, call 911.
Once you’ve assessed everyone’s health and the situation, it’s time to exchange information. The information you should get includes:
- Driver’s name, driver’s license number, and phone number.
- The insurance company’s name and policy number.
- The name and phone number of their insurance agent if it’s on the car insurance ID card.
- License plate number & VIN. This is especially important if you’re involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle.
- Pictures of damage to both cars.
- Names and phone numbers of any witnesses to help verify who was at fault.
- Location of the accident (intersection, mile marker, etc.).
If your phone has a camera, take pictures of the driver’s license, license plate and insurance card, but also write this information down. In a different situation, a client commented to me she’d taken a picture of the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the truck that hit her but couldn’t read it. Writing it down helps you avoid situations like that if the information is unreadable, out of focus or suffers from glare or distortion.
Once you’ve exchanged information with the other person(s), it’s time to determine what to do with your car.
- Check your car to see how badly damaged it is.
- Is it leaking any fluids?
- Has the front end been pushed into the radiator?
- Are the tires and wheels pointing in the right direction?
- Is anything hanging below the engine compartment or near the tires?
- Can the tires roll without rubbing against the fender or fender well?
- Can you see clearly through the windshield?
- If the car only experienced minor damage and can be safely driven, I’d recommend you drive it to a repair facility.
- Do not attempt highway speeds until after it’s been cleared by a claims adjuster.
- Call a wrecker if it makes any noises or emits smoke or steam.
- Call a wrecker if you think anything is questionable.
- Have it taken to a repair shop and reviewed by one of their technicians. They’ll be able to provide you with an estimate and you can compare that to your insurance policy’s deductible.
If during any of the process you have a question, call your agent. If a claim is warranted, the claims department of your insurance carrier can assist.
- If the other person is at fault, start with their insurance company.
- The other company will wait to process your claim and authorize repairs only after they’ve heard from their client.
- If you’re unable to wait or the other company is dragging their feet, talk with your agent about filing the claim with your insurance company.
- You will be liable for the collision deductible, but you’ll get faster service and will probably get your deductible back.
- If it was your fault, file the claim with your insurance company and begin the process so your car and the other person’s vehicle can be repaired.
Texas law supports the consumer determining where you can have your vehicle repaired; it’s your choice. Pick somewhere you trust that’s convenient and will do the job right.
Do you have an experience or comment you’d like to share? Post them and your questions in the comments section of our blog (click on the post’s name) or on our Google + and Facebook pages. I’d love to hear from you.