What To Do After a Fender Bender
Among the situations that can quickly cause a day to spiral from high to low are automobile accidents. If you're involved in one, here are six steps to make the process less stressful.
1. Pull over and call 911.
If possible, get out of traffic and safely move your car to the nearest shoulder or parking lot. Don't forget to turn on your hazard lights. If there's a chance that someone is hurt, or if you're worried about possible damage to either vehicle, call the police immediately. Even if there is minimal damage and no visible injuries, it's advisable to call the police.
2. Exchange vehicle insurance information.
Always exchange car insurance information so insurance companies can work out who pays for damages. If the other driver doesn't have an insurance card, call 9-1-1 and try to get the driver's license number and vehicle tag information. If possible, take a photo on your cell phone of the license, tag and vehicles.
3. Get a police report.
Filing a police report at the scene is best, but you may be able to file a report later if you didn't contact 911 immediately after the accident. In Louisiana, you must report any vehicle accident that results in injury, death or property damage over $500 to the local police department.
Written reports are also required by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) within 24 hours if the accident results in injury, death or more than $100 in property damage. Laws vary from state to state regarding the filing of accident reports, and some states issue citations for not reporting an accident. Again, it's best to call the police to the scene.
4. Make small talk and avoid confrontations.
We advise our clients to never get out of the car 1) accepting blame or 2) assessing blame. Even if you were at fault, don't take ownership of the accident. Just tell the truth, stick to the facts and don't offer your opinion. Also be careful about discussing injuries. If the other person involved asks if you're okay, you might reply "only my doctor can assess my health situation." If first responders show up at the scene, allow them to check you out. Even if you think that you're not hurt, injuries may show up later.
5. Take photos and gather witnesses.
Now's a good time to use your smartphone. Take photos of the scene including all vehicles involved, license plates, drivers licenses, the street view and any signage. This could be helpful later for your insurance company or possible legal proceedings. Ask for the names and contact information of any witnesses. File all of this information with your insurance company as soon as possible.
6. Don't beat yourself up.
Being in an accident, even if it's just a fender bender, can be stressful. Try to stay as calm as possible. After all, it's called an accident for a reason. Don't worry if you didn't get all the details. The most important thing to remember is to get the other driver's insurance information. Other details can be straightened out later.