I’ve had a car accident! What you do next?

Posted on Monday, February 29, 2016 - 12:32

Having a traffic accident is one of the most stressful experiences one can have while driving – thoughts of panic and worry flood one’s brain more often than not. Roy Morgan research says 20% of Australians have been involved in a car accident in the last five years. Let’s run a hypothetical – another car has just hit you. What happens next?

Stay calm

Focus on what’s happening right now. If you aren’t injured, count your blessings. Thoughts of the distant future or immediate past are not helpful – breathe deeply to tell your “lizard brain” you aren’t in a panic situation.

Safety first

Turn on your hazard lights. This ensures the safety of those around you. If you can move your car, move it out of the roadway as soon as you can. Once you’re at a stop, turn off the engine and take the key out of the ignition. Exit the vehicle and check yourself thoroughly for injuries – sometimes the shock of an accident can blind your senses to pain. Check the other party for injuries if you are in a position to. If required, call emergency services on 000. You should call for the police if you suspect the influence of alcohol or narcotics were at play.

Don’t admit fault

Even if you think it was your fault – don’t say so. It’s natural to apologise (Australian culture is full of apologies over nothing!) but don’t admit guilt. There are so many factors determining what happened, so leave the assessment to the professionals.

Take pictures and document the scene

Many insurance providers now issue smartphone apps to policyholders to take pictures and describe the damage as part of a claim. Even if your insurance company doesn’t offer an app, take pictures noting the environment and location of the crash, including details on traffic, road surface and weather conditions.

Exchange details with all parties

Once you’ve gathered your evidence, you should exchange details with the other parties. Remember to write down their full name, address, phone number and email address, vehicle registration number plus the make, model and colour of their vehicle and their insurance company. Be sure to gather this information from witnesses as well.

Check if your car is roadworthy

If you can drive your home or to your insurer’s assessment centre safely, do so. If not, call for a tow truck to assist you.

Contact your insurer / make claim via your app

Once you’ve completed these steps, contact your insurer or make the initial claim via your smartphone app. This will help you get your car back on the road faster (or into a new car, depending on your coverage.)

To make sure you follow all these steps, it’s worth printing this information out and keeping a copy in your glove box. Following a sequence can help you keep a clear head in a stressful situation.

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