Prepare Today for an Accident's Impact

Physician's Money Digest, October15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 19

According to recent statistics fromthe US Department of Transportationand the Quality PlanningCorporation, among 40 differentprofessionals, physicians were the secondmost likely to be involved in an auto accident.Students were first in the ranking.

Report to Authorities

The most important thing to do at anaccident scene is to remain calm. Try tocontact the authorities by calling 911. Ifthe accident is not an emergency, the callwill be transferred to the appropriateauthorities. Find out whether a police officer will come to the scene. In some majorcities, auto accidents are not high prioritiesand motorists in minor collisions areusually left to sort things out for themselves.Police are usually dispatched ifthere are injuries or if equipment is neededto clear cars from the roadway.

Note:

Most states require a written accidentreport to be filed, whether or not thepolice come to the scene, even whenthere is only minor damage involved.What looks like minor damage could easilyexceed the typical $500 state thresholdat which an official report must bemade. Try to file an accident reportas soon as possible.

Never accept or cast blame on anyoneor anything at an accident scene. If youbelieve that the accident was not yourfault, however, you'll need to be able toprove it. You do not want your insurancerates to go up after you file the claim.

Obtain the following key pieces ofinformation after a motor vehicle accident:

  • Names and home addresses of all driversand passengers
  • License number of the drivers
  • Insurance companies and policynumbers of the drivers
  • Make, model, year, and license platenumber of all involved cars
  • Name, home address, and phonenumber of any witnesses
  • Name and badge number of theinvestigating police officer
  • When and where to get a copy ofthe police accident report

Post-Accident Alert

Some people may be reluctant to testifyif an accident case goes to court, so besure to get the names of as many witnessesas possible. Jot down the license platenumbers of cars in the area at the time ofthe accident. Even if people drive away,you may be able to track them down aspotential witnesses.

Make your own sketch of the accidentscene. Police reports are not always completelyaccurate; in fact, insurance expertsestimate that 75% of these reports containerrors. Your description of the accidentwill be important when it comestime to complete your part of the accidentreport, which will ask for details aboutwhen, where, and how the accidentoccurred. You can enlist the help of yourinsurance agent to fill out the report.

Typically, you have 48 hours to notifyyour auto insurance company of an accident;however, any delay is unwise. Mostinsurance companies operate a hotline forpolicyholders to report accidents. Foradded protection in fender-bender cases,store an inexpensive, disposable camera inyour car. You can photograph the accidentscene showing the position of your carand use it as evidence if there are conflictingstories.