I.I.I. Offers Tips on What to do Following Auto Mishaps

May 16, 2005

No one likes to think that they may be involved in an auto accident, but knowing what to do after a crash can save lives, reduce injuries and make the entire claims process much easier, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

There are more than 6.3 million auto crashes each year, resulting in an injury every 11 seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“If you are in an auto accident, there are four things to remember to do,” said Jeanne Salvatore, consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “Stop your car, see if anyone is hurt, assess the damage and then get as much information as possible about the accident.”

At the scene of an accident, the I.I.I. recommends that drivers:

* Find out if anyone is injured. Call the police or highway patrol and let them know how many people were hurt and the extent of their injuries. The police will then notify the nearest medical unit. Avoid moving a severely injured person, unless they are in danger of getting hit by traffic. Try to calm the person and keep them warm by covering them with a blanket or jacket until help arrives.

* Protect the accident scene. Take reasonable steps to protect one’s car from further damage by setting up flares, getting the car off the road and calling a tow truck.

* Collect as much information as possible. Everyone should keep a pad of paper and a pencil in the glove department of their car. Individuals may also want to keep a disposable camera to take pictures of any damage done to the vehicles. Make sure to get the following information:

– Names, addresses and phone numbers of all drivers and passengers involved in the accident, license plate numbers, make and model of each car, driver’s license numbers and insurance information.

– Names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses.

– Names, badge numbers and contact information of police, highway patrol or other emergency personnel at the scene. Remember to ask where one can obtain a copy of the police report. Individuals will need it when filing a claim.

– Make note of the date, time, location and other relevant information such as driving conditions. Details can sometimes be forgotten weeks or months later, so it is important to jot them down.

If there is anything about the accident that does not feel right, mention it to the investigating police officer and let one’s insurance company know. Some auto accidents have been orchestrated by insurance fraud criminals.

“If you feel that the accident was a set-up, don’t confront the other driver or passengers,” said Salvatore. “They can be dangerous people. Instead, tell law enforcement or your insurance company about your suspicions and let them investigate the situation.”

The National Insurance Crime bureau has information on staged accidents on its Web site at www.nicb.org. If one suspects insurance fraud, they can also call their toll free number, 1-800-TEL-NICB

“If you get in accident with another driver or pedestrian, let your insurance company know about the incident,” pointed out Salvatore. “Even someone who appears to be unharmed may sue you. For your insurer to defend you in court, they need to know about the accident.”

To file an auto insurance claim, the I.I.I. suggests:

* Get in touch with one’s insurer as soon as possible, regardless of who is at fault.

* Find out what forms or documents one will need to support their claim. In most cases, one’s insurer will require them to fill out a “proof of claim” form. If there is a police report, provide this to one’s insurer. Many insurers have the technology that allows one to monitor the progress of their claim on their Web site.

* When speaking with one’s insurer, get the names and phone numbers of everyone one speaks with throughout the claims process and keep copies of any bills or documents being supplied to the insurer.

Ask your agent or company representative the following questions:

– Does my policy contain a time limit for filing claims and submitting bills?

– Is there a time limit for resolving claims disputes?

– If I need to submit additional information, what is the cutoff point?

– Do I need to get repair estimates for the damages to my car?
– Will my policy pay for a rental car while my car is being repaired? If so, how much will I be reimbursed and are there any time constraints?

“Each state has its own laws governing the claims process and you have rights and obligations under these laws,” added Salvatore.

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