By Christine “ECKO” Ho
Let me start by saying — I have recently gotten into a car accident. And it wasn’t my first one.
It was my third — third — time being rear-ended in one year. So do I think I know what to do in a car accident? Uh, chyeah!
First: CALL 911. Tell the operator, as best as you can, where you are, and what happened. Chances are, a cop will reach you within a few minutes. You can ask the operator for advice on whether or not to move your car before the cop gets there. They will also ask you if you’ve been hurt — I will tell you, no matter what, you will ache. Maybe not at that moment, but you will later. In the shock of the moment, you will probably be numb and not be feeling anything, so make sure you take into account what damage you may have. If you think you need an ambulance, go ahead and tell them you think you need medical assistance. Or, it is possible the other driver needs medical assistance. WARNING: Ambulances cost a lot. I’m not discouraging you from getting an ambulance if you’re internally bleeding and you’re in extreme pain, but you might not want to call one for a muscle ache in your neck. Gauge your pain yourself and be smart.
Second: If you’re on the highway and there are speeding cars all around you, move your car if possible. Of course, ask the operator first, but I have a police officer friend who says it’s best to move your car. There is a great risk that someone behind you didn’t realize you were in an accident and ram into you, making the potential of injury and death higher. If you can’t move your car, then there’s really nothing you can do. Eventually, traffic around you will slow. This is when I would say move to the third step.
Third: Always keep a camera. In this day and age, everyone has a smart phone. Utilize it. It probably comes with a fancy camera. Now, I’m not saying Instagram it or alter the picture in any way, because that might not be the best thing to do — it could become legal evidence in the future. It’s probably a good idea to keep a disposable camera in your glove compartment as well. I carry my camera around, so I will take multiple pictures of my car, my car in relation to the other car, the damage that was done close up and the damage to the other car. You can usually take all of these pictures before the cop gets there.
Fourth: Try to get the insurance information of the other car and return the favor by offering your information. Keep paper and pen handy in your glove compartment. It’s possible they might refuse to give you the information, in which case you really can’t do anything and just wait for the police to get there. Make sure you have your license and registration ready for the police.
Fifth: When the police officer asks for your statement, tell him/her as succinctly as possible what happened, in the order that it happened. If it helps to write it down or draw it out, go ahead and have everything done before he/she gets there. In my experience, police officers are busy people that do the best with what they have, and have to pass judgment on the spot. If they feel you are in the wrong, then he/she will give you a ticket that you can contest later. However, do not admit guilt. Do not say, “Officer, it was my fault. I rammed into him.” There are circumstances that the police officer will take into account, some of which are weather, road conditions, traffic conditions, etc. If you rear-ended someone, it most likely is your fault. But what if the person in front of you had been changing lanes recklessly and didn’t see you and clipped into you? Therefore, it’s best to omit any mentions of guilt and stick to the facts.
Sixth: I don’t really know the legal aspects after an accident because I’ve gotten a lawyer for all of my accidents. I let her handle all of my legal matters. You can get a lawyer, but if you don’t want to, then you can probably just handle it through your insurance company and the other party’s insurance company. However, they will try to pay you the least amount they can so that they don’t lose money. Make sure you have all your ducks lined up and you list out all the faults and the damages, and the emotional trauma you went through. If you had to miss work because of the accident, then they will also take that into consideration as well. If you don’t have any means of transportation, they will provide a rental for you. Make sure you know your coverage and what you can ask for and what you can’t.
Seventh: If it was your fault, your insurance will probably go up. If it wasn’t your fault, you will wait for a check to come in from the insurance company involved with your accident.
Eighth: Reflect. Why did you get into an accident? Were you not paying attention to the cars ahead of you and that’s why you braked too hard and made the car behind you ram into you? Or were you texting while you were driving (ILLEGAL!)? Or maybe you were staring at a funny billboard and didn’t realize that the next to you was trying to merge in. The best driving is defensive driving — which means you should be prepared for anything that might happen on the road.
There you go — the eight steps to dealing with a car accident. I hope that this won’t have to help anyone I know, because then that will mean you were in a car accident, but I do enjoy good advice for bad situations.