Austin can have intense traffic and our area has several bad auto incidents every day. Many more minor accidents occur and don’t make the evening news – so called “Fender Benders.” Being prepared for an auto accident will help. Knowing what is legally required at the accident scene is important. A list of your steps after an accident gets the claims process started and heads all parties to fair resolution.
Bad Accident – Call for Help: 9-1-1
Any accident with injuries, blocking traffic or involving vehicles that will need to be towed is beyond the “minor accident” level and you need to call 9-1-1 to get help. This article has helpful preparation and tips but a bad accident is beyond the scope of what is being presented. For most minor accidents, the police won’t come and you are on your own.
Prepare for a Fender Bender
Here is a list of items that you should have in your glove compartment in case of an accident:
- Pen and Paper
- Auto Accident pamphlet (often available from your insurance agent)
- Disposable Camera (or Cell Phone with camera feature)
- Current Proof of Insurance
Link: Auto Insurance
What to Do at the Accident Scene
- Stay Calm – Each accident is going to be a unique and unplanned event. Emotions are likely to be “hot” but keep yourself reasonable and civil with the other people involved. You and the other drivers now need to get through the process together. Anger is not going to help.
- Stay Safe – Don’t risk getting hit be other vehicles. The law requires you to move to a safe place as near as possible to the accident scene and if possible, avoid obstructing traffic. An adjacent road shoulder or nearby parking lot might be good safe spots. On major expressways, you should move to the designated accident investigation site. Use your hazard lights to warn other drivers. Keep your passengers safe by keeping them in their seats.
- Exchange Information – In Texas, all drivers involved in an auto accident have a legal requirement to exchange information. Good gathering of information at the accident scene also helps the insurance claims process. The law requires that each driver give their name, home address, driver’s license number, license plate number and auto insurance information. More information that is helpful and should be offered by both parties is the year, make and model of the vehicles. Also, you will need the location of the accident for the insurance claim and for the Driver’s Accident Report (“Blue Form”). If the auto is not owned by the driver, be sure to get the owner’s contact information.
- Extra Steps – A couple extra tips that will help your insurance company handle the auto accident claim and reach the right outcome quickly: 1. A picture of the other vehicle’s license plate and autos, 2. A diagram of what happen, 3. Witness contact information
- Important – Let the insurance companies’ claims adjusters sort this out. Don’t admit fault, apologize or accuse the other driver. Always work with your insurance company and the other party’s insurance company’s claim adjuster. It is why you bought auto insurance. Ignore any offer by the other party to pay for the damages privately.
After the Accident
- Report the Claim – Most insurance companies have a 24-hour number to call to initiate an auto insurance claim. It is also good to alert your insurance agent. You have a duty in your insurance contract to report a potential claim. It is best to report the accident as soon as practical after the accident – at least by the next day. You want to get your side of the story to your insurance company while it is fresh. Also, all parties benefit from a quick, fair resolution of the claim.
- Blue From – You, as the driver, have a legal requirement in Texas to file a Form CR-2 Driver’s Crash Report (the “Blue Form” so named because of the original paper color) if the extent of the auto accident includes any injuries or property damage of at least $1000. Here is the link to the Texas Department of Transportation Crash Forms – http://www.txdot.gov/txdot_library/drivers_vehicles/forms/crash_records.htm
- Work with your Insurance Claims Adjuster – Your insurance company needs your cooperation. Present the facts of what happen truthfully and fully. The quicker the claims process happens, the sooner everyone will have this behind them.
Auto accidents happen and sooner or later most of us will be involved with a “fender bender.” It helps to be prepared. Be civil at the accident scene but also get the job done and collect the information needed. Report the event to your insurance company and be ready to work with your insurance claims adjuster. Finally, don’t forget to handle the state requirement by filing a Driver’s Crash Report (“Blue Form”).
David W. Crump, Ross Gray Insurance Agency