On average, six million car accidents happen in the United States every year. These include fender-benders and smaller-scale collisions all the way up to totaled vehicles. While the number of cars on the road has decreased during the pandemic, people tend to drive while distracted more often and speed, so your odds may be a little greater of getting in a car accident. Oregon is an at-fault state, meaning that if you cause a car accident, you (and your insurance) are responsible for those damages.
The first few minutes after a car accident can be confusing and scary, and you may not know what needs to be done first. Never fear. Here is a list of the things you should do first after a car accident in Portland.
1. Safety First
If possible, pull your car over to a public, well-lit and safe place nearby. This way you won’t impede the flow of traffic and you and the other driver will be able to see each other clearly. If you have a choice, choose the more public option so that others may see the other driver just in case they decide to leave the scene. It’s important that you don’t leave the scene, especially if there are injuries or if there are damages to the vehicles and insurance information to gather.
Hopefully, your car is still drivable, but if not, take stock of whether it will be a road hazard. If you can push it to the side, you can move it even up onto a sidewalk. If not, turn your emergency hazard lights on to give warning to passing cars.
2. Secure Your Traveling Companions
Were you in your car with your pet, a child, another adult, or an elder? Assess whether they are injured first. If you have a child young enough to be in a car seat, don’t take them out of the seat just yet. They may have injuries you can’t see, and it would be best to have a first responder check them out.
However, you wouldn’t leave a pet or a child or an elder in a hot locked car when you run into a store, so if the accident is a minor collision, you can leave the engine running with the AC on, roll down the windows, or let them out of the car while you handle the accident details. But this is assuming there’s a safe place to do so. Make sure you’re situationally aware of the area so you can prevent further injuries and so the pets and people in your care don’t wander off.
3. Talk With the Other Driver
Again, it’s good to be situationally aware. Is the other person agitated? Is this a safe place to talk? They may be frightened or blame you for the accident, so it’s important to choose your words carefully and—above all—remain calm. Before you speak with them, secure any valuables on your person as well. For instance, make sure your purse or wallet is with you rather than in a car with an open window.
It may be appropriate to engage in small talk if you and the other driver need to call an ambulance or the police, but be sure you don’t make any admissions, blame the other person, or apologize. If a claim is filed and the other driver or other witnesses say they heard you say you’re sorry or that you’re at fault in some way, it could be a major headache for you down the road. Rather, the insurance companies will determine these things later.
4. Gathering Information
It’s important to gather the right facts right after a collision. Information you will need to gather from the other driver includes their name and contact information; their insurance company and policy number; their driver’s license and license plate numbers; the type, color, and model of their vehicle; and the time and location of the accident. Be prepared to give this information as well. You should also take pictures of the accident scene and record with audio or video while you ask witnesses what they saw, but make sure they stick to the facts.
Other information you can gather includes road conditions or weather, any injuries you might see, and anything else that contributed to the collision (a distraction on the road, such as a squirrel, cat, or a runaway basketball, for instance). If your insurance company has a mobile app, sometimes they will walk you through items like this so these details aren’t lost in the shuffle.
If you’re a prepared person, you may already have this app on your phone or mobile device, which will cut down on time spent figuring it out and setting it up. Your insurance provider’s app might be critical in this situation because not only can it help you with the accident details, but you may have access through it to roadside assistance or towing or even rental car options.
And of course, make sure to save all this information and details, including receipts, bills, and medical records so that if a claim is filed you will have it all on hand.
5. Contact Your Insurance Provider (And Maybe Us!)
You’ll want to start an auto insurance claim once all these other items are handled. You can expedite the claim process this way by being proactive. Your insurance agent may also have further questions you might have missed or will be able to point out things you are eligible for in your policy. Make sure you ask any questions if you’re not sure of the process or what you need to do, especially if there are any deadlines.
Hopefully, you are uninjured, but if you or someone you love is injured or killed in a car accident, the expert team at Warren Allen LLP has your back. If you find you need to file a personal injury claim, contact Warren Allen today.