Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that exis...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 24, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • It’s crucial to collect all of the right information after an accident so that the claim can be settled quickly
  • The assigned adjuster will investigate and review statements to determine what happened and who caused the loss
  • You should have a checklist in your glove box so that you have all the right details before leaving the scene
  • Always gather information on the driver, the registered owner of the car, the vehicle, and the insurance policy
  • If possible, take photos at the scene of the accident showing skid marks, glass, street signs, and vehicle damage

Having an accident is the last thing you want to prepare for. While you can’t predict if and when you’ll have a loss, it’s still in your best interest to research what you should do after the accident to protect yourself.

Failing to collect the right information is crucial if you plan on filing a claim through your insurance carrier.

If you’re missing information, it could delay the entire claims process.

You should always put your safety and the safety of others involved in the accident first. When the dust settles, get out of the wreckage as soon as you can.

If you can’t move the car, do your best to direct traffic away from the cars until the tow trucks can come. As you’re waiting, there will be time to gather whatever you need.

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Your First Duty After an Accident is to Mitigate Damage

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As a driver and a policyholder, you have duties. One of those is to mitigate the loss. For those who aren’t familiar with the insurance term “mitigate,” it refers to the process of taking action to reduce the chance that the property will sustain more damage.

If you don’t mitigate the loss after your car is damaged in an accident, the insurance company could deny some or all of your claim.

Obviously, if it’s not safe for you to go and direct traffic in the middle of the freeway after a fender bender, you’re not expected to. Mitigating the loss isn’t required when factors are beyond your control.

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Get To a Safe Place Before Gathering Any Details

The first thing on your mind might be filing a claim once you see that you and your passengers are unharmed. Don’t be so focused on gathering information that you put yourself in harm’s way.

When you’re lucky enough to leave a wrecked car without any serious injuries, the last thing you want is to get hurt while you’re cleaning up the mess.

Another duty that you can’t overlook is the obligation to get to a safe place before you start a conversation with the other driver.

When you let your emotions get the best of you, it’s easy to have your judgment clouded.

Pull the car over if you can, or get out of the wreckage. After doing this, see if anyone needs medical attention right away.

If there’s no need for emergency transport, call the police and have them report to the scene.

Put an Accident Checklist in Your Dashboard

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It’s easy to forget every detail that you need to collect from the other driver in the heat of the moment. When you’re riled up and shaken from a loss, you can’t expect yourself to remember everyone off the top of your heat.

To give yourself more of a chance when you’re filing a claim, you should prepare an accident checklist for your dashboard or your wallet.

You can type up a list of items that you need and print out a few copies for each car.

To make things easier, a lot of the leading insurance companies have checklists that you can access online that are already written up for you.

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What information do you need to collect on the driver?

If you’re writing up your own list of details to gather post-accident, you should start with the driver.

If you’re not sure what you need to get from the driver, here’s a list of items:

  • Driver’s full name
  • License number and issuing state
  • Address or other contact information
  • Description of the driver if it’s a hit-and-run accident

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What vehicle information do you need to collect?

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You have all of your vehicle information in hand. The focus needs to be on the third-party cars that were involved in the crash.

You’ll need more than just the description of the car.

If it’s a hit-and-run, make sure to get as much information as you can while you’re pulling over. When it’s possible, take a picture of the car.

Here’s what you’ll need when both cars stop:

  • Year, make, model, and color of the vehicle
  • VIN (if accessible) and license plate number
  • Name of the registered owner and contact information
  • Address on the vehicle registration
  • List of damages sustained in the accident

Do you need information from other passengers and witnesses?

Your passengers and other witnesses who weren’t in the vehicle may be asked to make statements when they can help with the investigation.

In most cases, the passenger’s word won’t be considered unless it’s a last-ditch effort to allocate fault.

Many times, passengers have a skewed opinion.

If you can get statements from witnesses who were in the car, that can help the claims adjuster a lot. Be sure to get the witness’s address, name, and phone number.

If the witness statement is from someone related to you, it might not be considered.

What information should you gather about the vehicle’s policy?

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It’s a must that you collect car insurance information. If the owner of the car is driving the car, collect the information on the ID cards carried in the dash. If it’s someone else driving the car, you should collect both the primary policy and the driver’s insurance information.

Here’s what you need from the ID card:

  • Carrier name and phone number
  • Policy number
  • Named insured
  • Effective and expiration date

Preparation ahead of time is key. if you don’t prepare, make sure to pull up a checklist on your smartphone and use the phone to take pictures.

If you’re not happy with the service that you receive post-loss, get online car insurance quotes instantly and consider switching to a better carrier.

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