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UPDATED: Oct 23, 2017
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Being involved in a car accident can be a scary situation, even if the accident turns out to be a minor one.
In addition to always driving defensively, you can protect yourself by ensuring your auto insurance policy is still in force and that matches your current financial and vehicle needs.
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The Legal Requirement of Car Insurance
With very few exceptions, auto insurance is a legal requirement no matter where you live in America.
Although it may seem like an undue financial burden, car insurance can be a financial lifesaver after a car accident or another event that damages your vehicle such as a fire or theft.
You can face many consequences if you are caught driving without auto insurance or, worse yet, are uninsured and cause an accident.
Depending on which state you live in, you may face some or all of these consequences:
- Jail time
- Fines of up to $1,000
- Community service
- A suspended driver’s license
- Car registration suspension
What if I get into an accident?
Every driver should know the correct steps to take if they get into an accident.
Knowing what to do can make a stressful situation a bit easier as well as help to protect yourself physically and financially.
If you are in an accident, follow these steps:
Step 1: Pull over
This may not always be possible due to driving or road conditions or even the state of you or your vehicle, but if you’re uninjured, get out of the car and away from traffic.
If they are, call 911 or the local emergency dispatch number.
Be prepared to give the following information:
- Location of the accident
- A description of the cars involved
- Information on the condition of the victim(s)
Unless the victim is in immediate danger, such as lying in traffic or in a car that is on fire, do not try to move them.
Wait for emergency responders instead. Stay with them and reassure them as much as possible.
Step 2: Exchange information with the other drivers involved
You should have your car insurance card with you at all times and be able to provide it to the other drivers and the law enforcement officer.
You will need to exchange information such as:
- Insurance carrier names
- Policy number and expiration date
- Policy limits and types
- Make, model, and type of vehicle
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers
- License plate numbers
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Step 3: Wait for local law enforcement to arrive
Even if no one is injured, experts recommend contacting local law enforcement and having them make an official report.
This will help with your insurance claim and if there are any problems if a lawsuit filed in relation to the accident.
Be prepared to give your account of what happened.
Step 4: Do not leave the scene until the police tells you to
Don’t flee the scene out of fear or panic. Stay put and wait to speak to law enforcement.
If the other party speeds off, do not chase after them. Wait where you are for help to arrive.
The only time you should leave the scene of an accident without speaking to police is if you are taking an ambulance.
Step 5: Document Evidence
If possible, take pictures with your phone of all vehicles involved and the area where the accident happened.
These pictures could potentially come in handy when you file your claim or if any legal claims need to be addressed.
You can also take detailed notes about how the accident happened, what the road and weather conditions were like, and anything you heard or felt at the time.
Important Note: Keep the situation calm. Do not start a fight with the other party if they caused the accident, and, if they’re inflammatory, do your best to defuse the situation even if it means sitting in your car until police arrive.
Notifying Your Insurance Company
You should call your auto insurance carrier and report the accident as soon as it’s safe to do so.
When filing a claim the agent will ask you several questions about what happened in order to find out how your coverage will apply.
You may even be asked to provide a written statement.
Each state has laws a time frame auto insurance companies must adhere to when filing claims.
You can find out the information specific to your state by contacting the office of the insurance commissioner.
Will my accident be covered?
Whether or not your accident is covered under your insurance policy depends on what type of coverages you had on your policy at the time the accident occurred, how the accident happened, and state-specific car insurance laws.
Here is a brief review of the types of auto insurance coverage:
- Liability – Most states have a minimum requirement for liability insurance. This coverage applies to damages that you cause to other people, in the form of bodily injury liability, and other people’s property, in the form of property liability. Drivers should take note that liability does not cover their own damages
- Medical Payments – This coverage is also referred to as Personal Injury Protection, PIP, or simply Med Pay. It will cover lost wages, medical bills, and in some cases, reimbursement for necessary help around the house directly related to any injuries you sustained in the accident
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist – If you are hit by a driver who has no insurance or a policy with low limits, this type of coverage will help pay for your damages. It can also be used if you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident
- Collision – If you were in an accident where your vehicle collided with another vehicle, an object such as a fence, or a building, your claim will be a collision claim
- Comprehensive – A deductible also applies to comprehensive coverage, however, it applies for damages to your car or loss of your car as a result of vandalism, theft, flooding, fires, or other acts of God
Make sure you are prepared in the event of an accident by checking your current auto insurance coverage. Your needs may have changed since you last evaluated your policy.
At the same time, you can also use a price comparison tool to ensure you are paying the best price possible when it comes to your premium.
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