A few months ago, I was in my car, heading home, when traffic stopped in front of me, so I stopped too. A few moments later I heard a loud “bang,” followed by another loud “bang!”
Of course, the second bang, was my car being crushed by the truck behind me. My car was launched forward, having suffered a violent rear-end collision, that would lead to my car being damaged beyond repair. In fact, the truck behind me was also totaled!
A young driver, distracted and making no attempt to apply his brake, plowed into the truck behind me, and then it was my turn to feel the impact.
In the end, except for the vehicles, no one was badly hurt.
A lot of people wonder what they should do, if they are in a car accident? If this happened to you, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Steps You should Take if You Are in a Car Accident
The following steps assume that you have not been severely hurt in a car accident. If you are taken to the hospital, much of what is contained in this article will have been performed by someone else.
While the steps you take in a car insurance accident will vary in order, depending on the severity of the accident, lets first look at it from an insurance standpoint.
Over the years I have talked with hundreds of people that have been in a car accident. Some have been through the drill before, and others have never been in an accident, so here are the steps that you should follow if you have been in an accident in Arizona.
- CALL THE POLICE, OR DIAL 911 TO REPORT THE ACCIDENT
A police report may be your best defense from another driver claiming an accident is your fault. Often a driver will change their story after the accident. If you have been hit by another driver, you want a police report backing up your side of the story.
If you feel threatened at the scene of the accident by an aggressive individual, let the dispatcher know right away. Sometimes a driver will be very antagonistic and accusing to you, even when it is their fault in the crash.
If you live in Phoenix or Tucson, the police may not respond to the accident, unless you have injuries, or feel threatened.
- REMAIN AT THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT UNTIL LAW ENFORCEMENT HAVE ARRIVED, OR YOU HAVE EXCHANGED INSURANCE INFORMATION
You are required to stay at the accident scene until the police have finished their report, or until you have exchanged insurance information with the other driver, and no police are present.
If it appears that the other driver left the scene, remain there and call the police to report a hit and run accident.
If you leave the scene of the accident, even if it appears the driver has left and you were not able to get any information, and you fail to call the police, you could be in for a big surprise. Not long ago, we had a driver that got out of her car, after being in a minor accident, and it appeared that the other driver fled the scene. She drove away wondering where that driver went. It was a big surprise to her to find out later the police were contacting HER for leaving the scene of an accident and saying she was involved in a hit and run.
This is an extreme case, but make sure you report the accident first, before leaving the scene, even if there seems to be no one around.
In Phoenix and Tucson, you may not get the police to come out to the accident scene if there are no injuries, but you can still report it, and in the process protect yourself.
- FIND A SAFE LOCATION
If you can move your car after an accident, you are required by Arizona law to move the car off the roadway. Immediately after an accident, verify that everyone is okay in your car, and if you can, move your car to the emergency shoulder of the road and out of the way of traffic.
- EXCHANGE INFORMATION
After a car accident each driver should exchange the following:
* The name, address, and contact information for each driver
* The owner of the car
* The insurance information, including the policy number of the insurance company
* Name and contact information for each passenger
* Name and contact information for each witness
* The vehicles involved (located on the ID card if not sure)
* The license plate number and the state where the license plate was issued
- TAKE PICTURES OF THE ACCIDENT SCENE
If you can do so safely, take pictures with your camera or mobile phone of the damage to your car, the other car, and any property that is damaged.
If no police report is available, pictures can be a key part of determining fault in an accident.
If two cars are backing up in a parking lot, pictures can show impact points and help in determining fault.
- DO NOT ADMIT FAULT IN AN ACCIDENT
Many people are surprised to find out that a police report may not contain all the information they had hoped for. Sometimes an insurance company may not have the information they need from the report, to assign which driver is at fault in a car accident. This happens when the fault is questionable, and the evidence is not clear, and when no citations are issued by the responding law enforcement agency. This can add to the confusion.
For this reason, never admit fault in a car accident. You should only discuss the accident with the police, and with the insurance company claims representative.
In talking with customers over the years, I have noticed that sometimes a favorite tactic of those at fault in an accident, that want to point the blame away from themselves, is to jump out of their car demanding the insurance information of those they just hit, and then to point an accusing finger at that person, saying that they were at fault!
Sometimes this intimidation works, and someone admits to fault that they shouldn’t. It is only afterwards that they come to the realization that sometimes things are not as clear as they might seem, and perhaps they were not the offender.
So do not admit to fault in a car accident, because you MAY NOT BE.
- CALL THE INSURANCE COMPANY TO REPORT THE ACCIDENT
After you have taken all the above steps, call your insurance company to report the details of the accident. They will ask you if everyone is okay, about the information that you have collected, and if there is a police report.
The person you speak with will ask you questions related to the accident, and they can also arrange for a rental car, if you have that coverage on your policy. With many companies, this may not be the actual adjuster that will be handling your claim.
The claims adjuster will call you, usually within 24 hours, to take a statement from you – if that had not been done previously – and to review and explain the coverage that is on your policy.
If you were hit by another driver, you should take the claims number from their insurance ID card and call their company to report the claim. If they do not have an ID card, call the police and tell them the driver that hit you cannot provide proof that they have insurance.
Why Report a Car Accident from the Accident Scene?
If you are hit by another driver, the reason you call the other company is to make sure that company accepts responsibility for the accident. They should pay to fix your car, arrange for a rental car for you, and pay for medical bills that you may incur. If you call from the accident scene, the driver that hit you cannot change their story later.
Another big factor in determining if you should call the insurance company of the person that hit you, is your deductible. A deductible comes into play when there is damage to your car. If you go through your insurance company, you will have to pay the deductible, and hope your insurance company can get the deductible back. Sometimes this can take several weeks to get your money back.
If you go through the other insurance company after they have accepted responsibility on behalf of their customer, you do not need to pay any deductible.
Some people do not want to bother with the hassle of calling the other insurance company. They would prefer to turn an accident into their insurance company and have them take care of everything. This is your right, and if that is what you want to do, your insurance company will take care of everything.
How Can I Report an Accident in Arizona if I Don’t Dial 911?
To report a car accident in Arizona, dial 911. However, if it is a non-emergency, you can reach the following police departments in Arizona by dialing the following phone numbers. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is abbreviated as MCSO. Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is abbreviated PCSO. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department is abbreviated as PCSD.
The Tucson Arizona Police Department no longer offers online reporting for a collision. They require that you set up an appointment with them, to evaluate collision damage that you want to report. This is done at the Patrick K. Hardesty Midtown Multi-Service Center, 1100 S. Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85711. The phone number to set the appointment is listed below.