A fender bender or auto accident is never fun. Knowing what to do at the scene of an accident can help. You may be hurt, jarred, shaken up. You're worried about your car. You're worried about what it'll do to your insurance rates. This is likely to turn out to be a terrible, horrible, really bad, not very good day.
But you can reduce the trauma of a fender bender or accident a bit by knowing what to do at the scene of an accident. Keeping your cool and following these few basic rules can be a big help down the road, minimizing the headaches of a fender bender or a major accident—and possibly minimizing their impact on your auto insurance premiums.
1. Be Prepared
Always keep a pen and paper handy in your car, right near your proof of insurance. Also, buy an inexpensive disposable camera and pop it into the glove compartment where it will be easy to reach. Then forget it's there. Don't use it on your next trip to the Grand Canyon. You might need it later.
2. Never Admit Fault at the Scene of an Accident
It may seem obvious to you that the accident was your fault—and maybe it was—but there may be circumstances you're not aware of at the moment of impact. You're probably not thinking too clearly and you don't really have all the facts. So don't be too quick to say "I'm so sorry." Fault will be determined later.
3. Make a Record
As soon as you've stopped shaking enough to be able to write, make as many notes as you can about what happened. Note the exact time of day, what the weather is doing, exact location, and how the accident occurred. Note the speed you were traveling if you know it. Get as many details down as you can. With everything going on, it's going to be hard to remember it all later.
4. Get Everyone Else's Details
Also, write down the names and contact information for everyone involved and anyone who might have been an eye witness at the scene of an accident or fender bender. That means all drivers, passengers, witnesses and any law enforcement people or other officials at the scene. Get the license plate numbers of all cars involved, the year, make and model of the other cars, the driver's license information for every driver involved, their insurance information, and any other details about them you think might be important. If they make any statements about the sequence of events or what they were doing at the time of the accident, make a note of that too.
5. Get Out the Camera and Use It
In the heat of the moment, when all you're thinking is, "Am I OK?" or "How much is this going to cost me?" or even something stronger (and unprintable here), it's easy for memory to go fuzzy. That disposable camera you put in the glove compartment can create a visual record of things you might just forget later. Take pictures of the scene of an accident, of your car, of the other car, of the other people involved. If there are obvious injuries—yours or someone else's — try to get pictures of those, too. Shoot the scene from several angles. Get close-ups of any obvious damage to vehicles or property. You've got at least 24 pictures on that camera. Use them.
6. Never Accept Payment or Offer It
If the other driver admits fault and offers to give you cash or a check immediately to cover your damage, don't accept it. You really can have no idea how much damage has been done to your car or what it's going to cost you. Let the insurance company and repair shop handle this one. By the same token, never offer a payment to the other driver if you think you're at fault. Again, in the heat of the moment, you probably don't know all the circumstances, and you don't know the extent of the damage. Paying off another driver at the scene to avoid having a claim show up on your own insurance can come back to bite you. It's a risk you shouldn't take.
By knowing what to do at the scene of an accident by following these rules and arming yourself with as much information as possible, you can reduce the repercussions of a fender bender on your car insurance premiums and save yourself a few headaches all around.