The 4 Worst Things to do After an Accident
It’s an experience absolutely no one likes. It seems surreal, almost like you are dreaming. Could this really happen to me? Then you realize very quickly, yes, an accident did happen to you, and you are not remotely prepared for it. So what should you do? Where should you go? How should you deal with what may be one of the worst days of your life? The first thing you can do (after emergency numbers if needed) is speak to your broker, who can give you advice on how to proceed. But if you don’t have a broker, or believe that bad things just seem to happen to you (and want to avoid them), here are 4 horrible ideas that may cross your mind after you are in an accident, so you can avoid making a bad day much, much worse.
4: Admit Fault
This one seems like a no-brainer, but is also a bit counter-intuitive. In some accidents, it is pretty obvious that a certain driver did all the damage.
But even in a situation where you pretty obviously rear-ended another vehicle at a red light, you should never fess up to being the person who caused the accident. You shouldn’t speak about the specifics of the accident beyond what is requested of you by legal authorities, as minor material statements you make directly after an accident may come back during any legal proceedings that might follow your fender bender, when someone remembers they hurt their neck during that crash.
Although you will likely be covered for legal suits against you through your insurance coverage, as well as the physical damage to your car, insurance companies can void that coverage if you are thought to do something that damages their right to defend you in the court of law. That means if you state something carelessly that could hurt your case, even if you do not know it was a bad thing to say at the time, you could lose all protection your insurance policy offers. So best to stay quiet, calm, and secure. Sometimes the best thing to say, is absolutely nothing at all. In fact, it almost seems like a great idea to just give up and take no actions whatsoever. It makes sense, except the #3 worst thing is…
3: Do Nothing
Doing nothing is attractive simply because you can’t possibly be held accountable for something you didn’t do. Of course, we all know life is not that simple. You have a legal obligation in the event of an accident (reporting it to authorities, ensuring your safety), but also an insurance obligation. As part of your policy, you agreed to minimize the damage of any potential claim, and if you don’t, the insurance company will not pay out your full claim amount (they will only pay for whatever you couldn’t have prevented). This applies to not getting damaged vehicles towed, allowing your vehicle to take additional damage (leaving it submerged in water, or burning), or abandoning the vehicle at the side of a road.
Insurance companies are entitled to any salvage value your vehicle has, provided they are paying you the full value of whatever vehicle you were using, and take this right very seriously. So make sure you do everything you can to minimize the damage done to your vehicle after the accident.
2: Make Things Worse
Not making things worse seems pretty darn obvious, but with insurance it takes on a very specific meaning. You don’t want to take direct actions that will damage your vehicle, or that of any other party, anymore than necessary. This means delicately balancing our mistake #3, do nothing, and making something worse. Although you have a duty to minimize damage to your vehicle, you must be sure to do so rationally. If your vehicle’s front end is in a puddle, while its entire frame is on fire, it is not a good idea to try and move the car out of the puddle. Reason needs to be your guide in approaching these kinds of decisions, so take a few seconds to deliberate before you take action with your vehicle. Contacting another person, like your broker, lawyer or even someone you trust can be a good option to help you make any complex decision.
A more relevant and common example of not making things worse is driving damaged vehicles. If you know you car is damaged, taking the risk of driving is generally a poor decision. You can be stopped by the police, cause another accident, and could have parts of your claimed waived. Driving a vehicle that is damaged greatly strains its mechanics, and can cause a lot of additional, and expensive damage, which an insurance company may not cover. So when in doubt, call a tow-truck, especially since many insurance companies will cover it as part of your claim.
Running is a really bad idea, for the simple fact that it is the wrong thing to do. If you are part of an accident, you have a moral obligation to remain, to assist any involved parties. The fact that failing to stop at a scene of an accident is a criminal offense and subject to a penalty of 5 years in prison may also factor in to your decision. It’s never worthwhile to run, and it should never factor into your decision if you’re involved in a collision.
“Of course,” you may say, as you read this blog entry and smoke your pipe thoughtfully while stroking your chin “No one in their right mind would flee the scene of an accident!”
But the key fact you glossed over in your bemusing argument is the statement “No one in their right mind.” Do you really think you’ll be in your right mind after you are in a collision? Accidents can be harrowing, scary and intensely embarrassing, especially if you feel you are the one who caused the issue – but the answer should never be to run. If you think about this now, hopefully when the time comes your mind will already known that running is not an option. If you panic and do run, the best thing you can do is turn yourself in to police. Facing the immediate consequences is much better than running and exposing yourself to a much greater penalty.
Despite the fear and confusion that an accident might invoke, so long as you remain and the scene and avoid the other three mistakes we’ve mentioned, you should be well on your way to handling your accident. You may not come out the other side with a grin on your face, but you should take some small satisfaction in knowing you handled this awful situation in the best way you could.