Car accidents, however minor, can be very frightening. Under pressure and in the aftermath of an accident, it's difficult to mentally checklist what you should do. You can minimize your panic and discomfort by organizing yourself in advance for the possibility of a minor car accident - keep this article or a similar checklist in your glove compartment.
1. Safety is #1
It's natural to be upset immediately after impact, but take a moment to collect and calm yourself, and to assess whether or not you've sustained any injuries. When you step out of the vehicle, step out onto the curbside, if possible, and stay protected from other traffic. Exchange accident information away from the vehicles, taking car not to place yourselves between or in front of the vehicles.
2. Exchange information
It's important for both parties to exchange detailed information c even if the damage appears minimal - in a calm and non-confrontational manner:
• names, addresses, and phone number of both drivers
• insurance policy numbers and their expiry dates
• ask to see a driver's license, as proof of identification
• note the make/model/serial number of the other vehicle
3. Note the surrounding and circumstances of the accident
The more information the better, in this situation. Chances are you're dealing with another upright citizen, but protect yourself, just in case. Take note of how many people are in the other vehicle and a rough idea of what they look like. A rash of recent fraudulent insurance scams lately has people claiming for "injuries" sustained in accidents they weren't even involved in!
Any witnesses? Take down their contact information.
It's unlikely that your accident claim will take months or years to resolve, but if it does, you'll find detailed notes fill the gaps that fading memory creates.
4. A picture is worth a thousand words
Keep an inexpensive disposable camera in the glove compartment so you can capture the pictorial details of the accident. Even a cell phone that takes pictures can help document the accident for future reference.
5. Assess whether or not you need to call the police
Naturally, if there are any injuries the accident should be reported to the police. If the damage is under $1,000, you aren't required to report the damage, but it really doesn't take much to rack up a thousand dollars worth of damage. If in doubt, report it.
Sometimes there is dispute about the circumstances of the accident, or the other driver isn't able to provide the necessary documentation. Inability to provide documentation could suggest that the driver doesn't own the vehicle, or that it has been stolen.
Again, if in doubt, call the police.