The Aftermath of a Car Accident: Here's What You Should Do
A car accident can happen in the blink of an eye, leaving you and your vehicle in a potentially unfortunate situation. While your insurance is designed to protect you against financial consequences, you could still end up on the hook for medical bills or car repairs. This article will instruct you on everything you should do, especially financially, after getting in a car accident.
Road hazards such as rain and ice can cause even the most careful drivers to slip. Aside from the damage to your car, an accident may leave you scrambling to find transportation as you wait for repairs. While auto insurance is designed to protect against the financial consequences of a car accident, careful budgeting and an emergency savings fund can also help you recover.
Immediate Action Steps
At the scene of the accident, you'll need to obtain the best information possible for insurance purposes. Here are some steps to take in the immediate aftermath of a fender-bender.
- Always think safety first. Pull over to the side of the road and stay at a safe distance from passing traffic.
- Check for injuries and call for medical attention, if needed.
- Wait for the police to arrive and complete an accident report. You may also want to document what happened from your own point of view by taking photos of the damaged areas and writing down details of the accident as you remember them.
- If you're involved in a multi-vehicle accident, you'll need to share information with the other driver. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), in most cases, you need to provide only your name and insurance information.
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible and find out what you need to start the claims process.
If you're not sure what to do or who to call, you can use the NAIC's WreckCheck app, which will take you through a post-accident action plan, step-by-step.
Once you've assessed the damage to your vehicle and completed the initial paperwork, you'll need to work on a plan to move forward. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average time for car repairs after an accident is two weeks. If you chose to include a rental reimbursement option in your auto insurance policy, you'll receive a daily allotment to help cover the cost of a rental vehicle while you wait for your car to be fixed. If you choose not to rent a car, you'll need to make alternate transportation plans.
If you've been injured, see a doctor and talk to your health insurance company about medical care. Once you have an idea of what's covered by insurance and how much you'll need to pay out of pocket, you can begin working on the financial impact of the car accident.
A car accident not only can hit you with a short-term financial setback, but it can also impact future savings and spending. If you dip into your emergency savings fund to cover medical bills or repairs, plan to increase savings to build the fund again for future needs. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the total cost of your claim, you may choose to add an increase in insurance premiums to your household budget. And, if your car is totaled, you'll only receive an insurance check for the current market value, minus your deductible, so you may need to save additional funds to buy a new car.
Though dealing with a car accident can be stressful, there are steps you can take to make the process less painful. Establishing an automatic savings plan now will help to alleviate the financial burden of unexpected events like automobile breakdowns or fender benders. Shopping around for the best insurance rates will also help to ensure that you're covered for at least part of the damages.