Statistically speaking, most everybody will be party to an automobile accident in their lifetime. Yet all too many drivers do not know how to respond in the event of an accident. By understanding how to handle a traffic accident, drivers can eliminate much of the undue stress surrounding the situation.

What to do in the event of a car accident:

1. Obtain a Statement

You need to first obtain a statement from witnesses and other drivers. Thoroughness is important when documenting the facts surrounding an automobile accident. You can create a statement form of your own, however, you need to be sure to receive all the necessary information and witness statements to support your case. Click here to download a sample witness statement form.

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2. Make a Claim

Parties to a traffic accident should give their insurance carriers a personal statement. This statement should provide an accurate and detailed description of the events surrounding the accident. On the other hand, when speaking with the other driver’s insurance agent, parties to an accident should be cautious about divulging information. These situations tend to be adversarial in nature, so speaking with an automobile accident attorney before speaking with the other driver’s insurance agent is a good idea

3. Collect Damages

Parties to a traffic accident may receive compensation for:

  • Car repairs
  • Car rentals
  • Diminution of value
  • Loss of wages
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent injuries
  • Scars
  • Future health care
  • Damage to spousal relationship

Coming up with a dollar value for damages is complicated and can oftentimes give rise to litigation. Parties to a traffic accident should always document expenses and save all records, bills, wage-loss information, etc. A qualified attorney is a great asset when it comes time to review these records and collect damages.

4. Obtain coverage for car repairs

If a traffic accident renders a car inoperable, the driver should have it towed to a service center or dealership. Collision coverage will cover 100 percent of repair costs, minus the deductible. The policyholder’s insurance carrier will then pursue the deductible from the other driver’s insurance if the other driver was to blame for the accident. Alternatively, victims of a traffic accident can demand payment from the other driver’s insurance, and thus avoid using their policy and paying the deductible up front. Usually, the quickest way to get back on the road is to work through your own carrier to repair or replace the vehicle and allow your carrier to subrogate their losses.

Parties to a traffic accident must be careful when submitting a claim to another driver’s insurance because the carrier can try to deduct from the damages owed a percentage of fault for the accident. This is called “comparative negligence," and it can be negotiated. For instance, if the repair estimate by either insurance company is too low, the policyholder is entitled to a second and third estimate. An attorney can be useful in negotiating with insurance carriers on comparative negligence issues. The law provides that the victim should receive fair market value for the vehicle that is a total loss.

5. Obtain coverage for a rental car

Most insurance policies provide rental car coverage. The other driver’s carrier is not obligated to provide rental car coverage up front – but many will if provided with the police report and there is no dispute about who is to blame for the accident. Individuals should keep rental car receipts and submit them as part of a claim for damages.

You also need to be aware of the different types of insurance coverages that car insurance companies generally provide. To learn more about the types of insurance coverages, click here.