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Dollars & Sense

So, You Had an Accident. What to Do (And Not Do) In the Aftermath

By Jason McGlone
Posted Mar 30th 2010 7:30AM

Getting into accidents is something that's going to happen to many, many drivers at some point or another.  It's an unfortunate fact, but it's something that every driver and carrier has to live with at this point.  There are two central responsibilities that come out of this.  The first of these is that drivers and carriers should take as many measures as they can to avoid as many preventable elements of crashes as they can.  The second of these is to make sure to do (or not do) the following in the event a crash happens.

Don't panic.  No matter what the situation is, know that you're going to have to talk to emergency services about the accident, and that the ability to explain everything that happened in a clear, detailed way is of the utmost importance.  If you're panicking, the chances you'll be able to do this is less likely.  Instead, try to think about helping the other people involved in the accident.   Don't discuss the details of the accident with anyone except emergency services.  There are a few reasons you shouldn't do this.  First and foremost, there's a distinct possibility that you might end up having a disagreement with the other driver or drivers--it doesn't help anyone to have people blaming each other before emergency services ever arrive.  Second, discussing the accident with the other driver(s) may influence in some way either what you would tell the police or what the other driver would tell the police--having all sides of those involved in an accident tell their stories helps the police piece everything together in as objective a way as possible. Don't leave the scene.  You know this already, and it's something that's a part of every available piece of advice about auto accidents, regardless of variety.  Leaving the scene is something that's illegal, at least in most states, and that's a situation that you don't want to put yourself in. Call 911 from the scene of the accident.  Get in touch with emergency services as quickly as possible, and make sure to give them as much detail as possible, so they can send the correct personnel. Set road flares.  The safety of other drivers on the road, as well as those who are involved in the accident, is paramount.  Setting road flares, if you have them, will help everyone know to merge away from the accident and to drive at a safer speed. Trade insurance information & vitals (including plate #'s and registration) with the other drivers and, if passengers were injured, get their vital information as well.  This is another item that you'll find in almost every piece of accident and/or crash advice; having all this information is, on one hand, primarily for your insurance company, regardless of fault, could prove to be very important. Were there witnesses?  It may be a good idea to get contact information for witnesses, if there happen to be any.  They may be able to provide information to either law enforcement or insurance companies in the event that those involved can't. Index the extent of damages to all the vehicles involved.  This includes taking photographs of the accident and the vehicles involved, the area where the accident took place, and writing down any important notes about the accident that you wouldn't otherwise be able to document with a camera of some kind. Pay attention to your health.  If you think that anything--and I mean anything--might be wrong with you health-wise as a result of your accident, you owe it to yourself to get it checked out.  many ailments caused by crashes aren't apparent for quite some time after the accident itself, so be sure to pay attention to any aches and pains--they could be related. If police didn't come to the scene, file a police report.  It's common in some states for police to not come to auto accidents that aren't considered to be serious, so it's a possibility that you'll have to file a report on your own.  In situations like this, it's vital to make sure you have the accident well-documented and to ensure that the police report has any and all vital information included. Call your insurance company.  This is, of course, the first step in closing out the matter; regardless of whose fault the accident happens to be, your insurance company should know about the accident so that it can discuss the matter with the other driver(s)' insurance companies.  Any money matters having to do with the accident will likely be handled by your insurer, so it's best to keep in close contact with them during the weeks following your accident. Consider contacting your attorney.  It's possible that a situation may arise where you'd need to contact your attorney.  Many issues surrounding accidents and crashes can involve complicated legal issues, and it's often best that they be handled by your attorney.  Sometimes these costs can outweigh the advantages of having the issue handled by someone else; this is something you'll want to think carefully about as you navigate the matter.  
By no means is this an exhaustive list of things you'll want to do (or not do) in the event that you have an accident in your van or truck.  Of course if you're short on time, as many expediters tend to be, you'll want to call your destination and let them know what's happened.  You'll also want to check your shipment, if possible, to ensure there isn't any damage, and if there is, you'll need to index and/or report that.  If you have any other items that should be on this list, or stories to tell about your accidents, you can put them in the comments section below or find a thread on the forums to discuss accidents and crashes.

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