A car accident is one of the more stressful situations we might unexpectedly face. These simple tips will help you deal with the immediate aftermath of a car accident and any car insurance claims that might follow.
Check that everyone is safe
The first and most important thing is that everyone involved in the accident is safe. Damage to property be repaired or replaced, but people come first. Find out whether anyone is injured and call for assistance immediately if they are.
Create a safe environment
Make sure the area around you is as safe as possible – the last thing you want is to cause another accident. In some situations it won't be safe to move passengers and the cars, but if it is, look to where you can move the situation off the road. Turn off your engine, put your hazard lights and your handbrake on and check the cars to make sure there's no petrol leaking or other major hazards.
Don't get angry or yell at another driver. Starting an argument will just inflame an already-stressful situation and its unlikely to achieve anything. Take a deep breath and focus on what needs to be done.
Write down the details of all drivers involved. This includes their name and address, drivers' licence number and state of issue, date of birth, number plate and insurance details. Try and get their phone number and email address as well. It's also important to provide your own personal information to the other drivers. Use the camera on your mobile, if you have one, to capture a few quick images of the other car, it's registration details, the road itself (obviously only if it's safe to stop and do so).
Avoid allocating blame
Try not to allege or admit fault or responsibility, no matter how obvious it might be. It doesn't make you a liar if you don't admit this stuff straight after the accident. It's ultimately the role of the police, and sometimes the insurance companies, to figure out fault, and rest assured they will. Admitting fault only complicates things later if it turns out there are mitigating circumstances, and your insurer might penalise you later with excess or premium increases.
Call your insurer
Don't wait long to call your insurance company. In fact, some insurance policies contain clauses which void claims or reduce them if you wait too long before reporting an accident. If it's safe to make the call then and there, then do. One thing you'll find with Australian car insurance companies is that most of them invest heavily in having people with good phone manner to take these calls. They know it's stressful, so they will generally be pretty co-operative in telling you what to do next. Before you take out a policy with any insurer read their terms and conditions and, in particular, the Product Disclosure Statement. Make sure you understand how they handle claims, and what obligations you have in the event of an accident.