Oh Crap, I Have Been in an Accident!

We all know that accidents happen, it is a fact of life. However, this point does not make having one any less scary. Even after you have checked to make sure your body parts are all still attached there is still a ton to think about. What should I do about insurance, should I call the police, how do I ask for his or her insurance information and so on. These are all questions that will address as well as many others. However, we will start at the start.
At the scene
The immediate reaction most people have to being in an accident is “oh crap I was just in an accident!” When you recover some level of sense and are able to look around, make sure that you and your passengers are ok. If anyone is injured call the authorities and let them handle it, do not ever try to remove someone from the car unless there is danger of a fire or some more pressing and immediate danger.
Provided that you and your passengers are OK (a few bumps and bruises are fine), take a deep breath and try to remain calm. Always keep a pen and paper around to quickly jot down the other car’s license plate number. Shut your car off and step out if it is safe to do so. Take a look at the damage and do your best to keep your cool, this is not the time to blow up. A common misconception is that the police do not need to be called in every instance. The police should always be called as it is in the best interest of everyone involved to have a police report. You do not need to get insurance involved if that is your choice, but having a police report will always help, especially if the other person decides to pull the ol’ switcharoo on you and demand payment.
Interacting with the other driver
This is a scary part, you have to interact with someone whom you do not know. You do not know how this person will react or what they will try to do. The key here is to stay calm and try to think rationally (we know that can be hard after something jarring like an accident). If you have a calm demeanor it will relax the other party. Be courteous but firm, try not to start an argument as the police/insurance companies can settle any dispute better than you.
Make sure you exchange insurance information regardless of whether you plan to get insurance involved or not. It is always good to have just in case. If it appears that the other driver has lost his cool it is even more important that you remain calm. If the police are coming then you have nothing to worry about, the anger will only make him or her seem more at fault. Try not to get into a shouting match as you do not want to antagonize the other driver.
Finally, when the police arrive, make sure you give them a detailed report as to what happened from your view. Do not embellish, exaggerate or lie as the police are very good at sniffing that out. Even if you suspect the other driver will do so, make sure your story is as you remember it. The police will assume that everyone is trying to cover his or her own ass and will catch the exaggerations of the other party. Also, any witnesses will confirm your story if you told the truth.
After the accident
There are a few things to do after an accident. If you chose to do so, file an insurance claim. The police report will come in handy here. Follow the process of your insurance company and see if they will cover your accident. Make sure you stay in some form of contact with the other party (provided they were as courteous as you were) so that you both know what is going on.
Finally there is the issue of getting your car repaired. Usually a good first step is to search on Google for collision specialists in your area. Find a few and get estimates for how much it would cost to fix. Make sure you like both the pricing and the specialist’s personality before going in to get it fixed. Many people believe they can do the repairs themselves. Generally speaking, working on your own car can be fun and rewarding, however when it comes to collisions it is good to find a specialist. Each accident is unique and there is no guide on how to fix any one. Each requires a custom job, including frame and body work, that is extremely difficult for someone without the proper tools and training. Also, it is not uncommon for more problems to surface after the accident, ones that a mechanic could have caught and fixed on the spot. So, while for many situations we believe a car owner can handle it, we suggest that you find a specialist for any collisions you might have.

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