What To Do After a Car Accident: A Step-By-Step Guide
Being in a car accident can be a very terrifying experience, and it’s natural to be unsure about how you should respond. First and foremost, you must ensure that you and your passengers (as well as the passengers of the other vehicle) are safe. This can help put your mind at ease, or determine what the correct steps to follow are.
Do not panic upon seeing any damage to your car. Remember that your car insurance policy is meant for such scenarios, and as long as you follow a few basic steps, you should be able to submit your claim and receive the funds.
Check for injuries
As stated earlier, one of the first things that you must do is check for injuries. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is believing that you are fine just because you do not see any injuries. This is because, often, large injuries lead to a surge of adrenaline in the body. This prevents us from feeling the pain of realising we are hurt.
Take a few minutes to assess your body and that of the passengers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Run your fingers through your hair. If there is blood on the scalp, you may have a head injury.
- Hold up your index finger in front of your passenger’s face and move your hand from side to side. If they can focus on the finger and track its movements, they may not have a serious head injury.
- If you spot a wound that is bleeding, ensure to keep the area elevated.
- Finally, check your GPS to spot the nearest hospital so that you can take your passengers (or the passengers of the other vehicle), if needed.
Call for roadside assistance
Whether you need an ambulance or a tow truck, make sure you do not procrastinate while calling one. This is especially true for the latter as people may believe it can be done at any time. However, a tow truck can take ages to reach you, causing further stress to you and your family/friends.
Additionally, even if you think your car has only a few minor bumps and scratches, it is important to call a mechanic to verify the same. An internal leak can put you in danger if you drive the car and a mechanic can let you know whether it’s safe for you to do so. However, things would be easier, if you have a car insurance policy in hand as it offers roadside assistance to the policyholder. A few months back when Arjun was driving at night to reach his friend's wedding then all of a sudden his car stopped in the middle of a road. All thanks to the roadside assistance cover he had with his car insurance policy, he got the assistance of a mechanic arranged by his insurance company.
Collect evidence through pictures
Now, when it comes to filing your insurance claim, this is one of the most important steps to take after a car accident. Use your smartphone or camera to take ample pictures of your vehicle so that you can show the extent of the damage done. Do not only rely on videos – instead, also take multiple close-up images of the damage. A video cannot always do justice to the same.
Here’s a tip: we often miss out on damage done to the inside of the car. If the broken glass has caused the upholstery of the seats to rip, you should take pictures of this too.
Gather the other person’s information
Most insurance companies require proper documentation and proof to even consider a claim. Your evidence should include the information of the owner of the other vehicle. If an insurance agent wishes to contact him/her to verify your story, it will be possible to do so this way.
Make sure you get the following information:
- Phone number
- E-mail ID
- Address (most people may be reluctant to share this, so note that it’s not necessary to have this)
Contact the police to file a complaint
Another smart step is to call the police to file a complaint, especially if the other driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A filed complaint helps insurers verify the fact that the accident did take place in the manner you have described. It lends more credibility to your claim, and makes the process of getting your funds easier.
Contact your insurance company
As a rule, you should always have a copy of your car insurance in your glove compartment. After the accident has taken place, you should take out your insurance copy and look for the 24x7 helpline number provided. Call this number immediately to inform the company about the accident. This has three main benefits:
- It acts as yet another piece of evidence for the company to know that the accident occurred when you said it did.
- Many insurance companies have links with motor repair shops and yours may be able to guide you about where you should go to get the car fixed. With this, the repair shop may be able to provide a cost estimate to the insurance company before fixing the car, and then also verify that the invoices and bills you have submitted to the insurance company are accurate. This should make the claims process faster.
- Finally, if your insurance company requires specific details of the car accident, they will inform you over the call itself. You can document the same through your camera. This way, you won’t have to regret not gathering ample evidence while filing your claim.
What documents are needed to file a car insurance claim after an accident?
Insurance companies can reject claims if the right documents are not presented. So, keep in mind that you have the following:
- Proof of identity (such as a copy of your Aadhaar card/passport)
- Copy of your driver’s license
- The car’s registration certificate
- The claim form is filled correctly (you can ask your insurance agent questions if you have doubts about what to fill)
- Details of the vehicle such as the make and model along with the year it was purchased
- Insurance policy details (such as the policy number, when it was purchased, information regarding no-claims bonuses, and so on)
- Documentation of the accident (this can include pictures, videos, written account of what happened and a copy of a police report. You can also submit the information you collected regarding the other car’s owner here)
- Cost estimate quoted by the car repair shop, along with all invoices and bills related to the repairs. You must also submit the name of the car repair shop, its address, and contact number
- A cancelled cheque
Note that the documents required may vary from one insurance company to another, so it is important to check with them what they need before you start getting the repairs.
An insurance company can reject your claim if you wait for more than a week after the accident to submit it. Thus, it is very important to do so on time. After all, you wouldn’t want to pay for all those repairs out of your pocket, right?