Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be a stressful and confusing experience. Learn more about what to do after you’ve been involved in an accident, including how to contact your insurance company, exchange information with the other driver, and take steps to protect yourself from potential legal action.
Check your car insurance policy for coverage details
After you’ve been in an accident, it’s important to review your car insurance policy to make sure you’re covered. Your policy will outline the type and amount of coverage you have, as well as what specific expenses are covered by your insurance provider. Double-check that you have the right coverage for your needs, so you know exactly what expenses will be taken care of if you need to make a claim.
It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with your policy prior to an accident, so that you know what coverage you currently have and feel better prepared should the worst happen. Take some time to read through all of the conditions in your policy and make sure that there aren’t any discrepancies or changes that you need to address. This way, you can rest assured knowing that if an accident does occur, you have the coverage needed to take care of related expenses.
Take the time to document and report all damages
After an accident, it’s easy to forget the details, so make sure to take the time to document and report all damages, no matter how small. You may think a dented bumper isn't worth mentioning in the report, but that damage could be considered pre-existing if you file a claim later on. Better safe than sorry—so take photos and get estimates of any repairs right away.
Take photos of the exterior of both vehicles, the interior of both vehicles, any obvious damages to either vehicle, and the surrounding area. If you are able to safely move the vehicles out of traffic before the police arrive, do so. This will help ensure that all parties involved remain safe while you gather information about the other driver and document the details of the accident. Additionally, make sure that all passengers are okay—be sure to attend to any medical needs immediately in case their injuries aren’t apparent initially.
Understand the car repair process and costs
Knowing the car repair process and costs associated with an accident will help you better understand if filing a claim with your insurance is necessary. Car repairs rather than full replacements are usually done at auto shops and are often covered by insurance. That said, if the damage is minimal, you may opt to take care of it yourself, and this approach could save you money in the long run.
Before scheduling any repairs, take the time to get multiple estimates from different shops. Make sure you understand exactly what will be done and what parts are needed before committing to a repair. Reviewing a list of safety related recalls for your car can also help ensure you are aware of any known potential issues which could cause additional damages down the line. Understanding car repair costs can also help you maximize any insurance settlement, so make sure you have all the information necessary to file any claim properly and quickly.
Calculate Your Lost Wages if You Can't Work After the Accident
If you can’t work due to injuries or your car is not drivable after an accident, it’s important to calculate what wages you have lost. Your insurance carrier will want proof of the compensation and may cover lost wages if the accident was caused by another driver. It’s also helpful to evaluate any out-of-pocket expenses like childcare or transportation costs incurred as a result of the accident.
To calculate wages lost due to a car accident, add up all pre-accident salary earnings from your job. If you received overtime or bonuses prior to the crash, include those as well. Depending on the situation and workplace policies, you may be able to recoup some or all of your lost wages under Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP is part of an auto insurance policy and covers economic losses such as lost wages, hospital bills and other medical expenses. If another driver caused the accident and they’re willing to pay for your damages, they should also pay what you are owed in wages that have been lost due to the occurrence of the accident. An experienced accident lawyer can help you with these calculations.
Check out rental reimbursement options if needed
If you can’t use your car after an accident and need to rent a car, check with your insurance carrier as soon as possible. Most companies provide rental reimbursement policies which may include coverage of the rental fee, fuel cost, and other associated expenses. It’s important to review the fine print and ask what is covered before signing any documents.
Many policies will also provide a car rental cost estimate before the coverage is used. This can help you budget how much to set aside for the estimated cost of renting a replacement vehicle. It’s also important to remember that rental reimbursement coverage isn’t always part of a typical car insurance policy. If it’s something you need, be sure to discuss it with your agent and consider purchasing additional rental reimbursement coverage as needed.