Help! What to Do if You Get Into a Car Accident

Adulting, Author: Michelle Ioannou

I got into my first car accident this past year. It was not anything serious, there were no injuries and it was a little fender bender. But — I didn’t really know what to do.

In typical fashion, my first instinct was to call my mother (after pulling over, making sure the other car stopped as well and that the driver was okay, of course). Luckily for me, my mother guided me as to what to do, and quickly got off the phone with me once ensuring everything was okay.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, and assuming that everyone is okay, here’s what to do:

Stay calm 
Accidents happen. Especially if it is a minor accident in which everyone is okay, there’s no need to freak out. If it’s a bigger accident, of course freaking out is natural, but try to remain as calm as you can.

Call the police 
I don’t care if it’s a minor fender bender and you don’t think the cops should get involved – they should. Of course they should be called to ensure that everything is okay; however, that’s not all. When push comes to shove, it’ll be your word versus the other person’s word. You need a third, unbiased party.

Get a police report
“But why do I need a police report when this accident seems pretty clean cut?” I’ll tell you why. It’s because people will start claiming everything and anything to help prove their innocence. You need a report of exactly what happened to ensure that the true actions are available if need be. This report will make life a lot easier for you, and for your insurance company.

Get the other person’s insurance information
This tip seems like common sense, I know, but I had to say it anyway. Take your phone out, and take pictures of the other person’s insurance information. You’re going to want all of the information you can get so your insurance company can get in contact with the other person’s insurance company to figure everything out.

Take pictures of the damage on your car
It can only benefit you to have pictures of the damage your car sustained; you can send it to both insurance companies, you can use it in case of any further need, and so on. Plus, you don’t want the other person complaining that the damage to your car wasn’t as bad as it really was.

Take pictures of the other person’s car
Similar to the reason above, this is also to cover your butt. More often than not (unfortunately) one person claims worse damage than was sustained in actuality. By having pictures of the other person’s car, you can avoid this scenario. Plus, I even know someone who got into an accident and the other person made a claim of driving a different car than the one involved in the accident! Having pictures of the other person’s car gives you proof as to which car was involved and the damage done.

Submit a claim with your insurance company
Do this the day that the accident happens. The claim process can take time; especially if you are putting out money you want to get back, you’re going to want to get right on this. As soon as you can, upload all pictures and as much information as you can to your insurance provider. Make your representatives aware of what happened and how it happened. Additionally, you don’t want to not submit a claim and then, they hear about the accident first from the other party’s insurance company.

Remember car insurance is your friend
Well, it is in this case at least. If hearing the words car insurance still makes you cringe, check out our car insurance cheat sheet to help you out.

Your Insurance Cheat Sheet: Auto Insurance

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

You don’t want to talk about it. Or think about it. Or figure out how it works. Or deal with the paperwork. Most of all, you don’t want to pay for it.

But… for better or worse, if you want to drive, you need to have auto insurance (in most states).

In another life, I sold insurance. My favorite part of my job was educating millennials about how it works. Like finances, insurance, in any capacity, can seem daunting. There is a great deal of numbers, industry terminology and fine print involved in any one insurance policy. But I’m here to break it down for you as I did with my customers.

Liability Coverage
Every auto insurance policy comes with liability coverage, or the portion of the policy that will pay damages to another party. On your auto insurance policy, liability coverage will be listed on a line looking similar to this one:

25/50/10

Keep in mind: all numbers are in thousands. So, ‘25’ is actually $25,000 and ‘50’ represents $50,000.

The ‘25’ is in the first position represents bodily injury damage per person. If the drivers suffers injuries that would cost $10,000 worth of treatment, your policy would front that $10,000. But — if that driver suffers injuries that would cost $35,000 worth of treatment… you’d be short about ten grand. Why? Because your policy limit only covers up to $25,000 worth of bodily injury payments per any one person.

The ’50’ in the second position represents bodily injury damages — wait, didn’t we just cover that? You’re right, we did, but now we’re moving into bodily injury per accident. Say you were once again in an accident, but this time, there were two people in the car — and each person suffered injuries that required treatment costing $15,000 each. Not to worry…you’d be covered. Why? Because $15,000 doesn’t exceed the per person limit of $25,000, and $30,000 ($15,000 x 2) doesn’t exceed the per accident limit of $50,000. However, if both people were injured to the tune of $30,000 each, you’d have to hold on to your wallet.

But wait — what about the big gash in the rear bumper of the car you just hit? What coverage is going to pay for that? The ‘10’ in the third position represents property damage — that is, any damage your at-fault accident caused to the car, or a pole on the side of the road, or a guard rail, to name a few possibilities. And if you’re thinking that in this case it will cover up to $10,000 worth of property damages, you’re correct.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) aka “No-Fault” Coverage
Personal Injury Protection requirements vary by state — but if it’s included in your policy, you are entitled to payment to treat your own injuries in the event of an accident, regardless of fault (hence the nickname no-fault coverage).

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Oh, no — you are involved in an accident with someone who does not have insurance, or carries significantly low liability limits. To put it simply, your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will help you out — it’s in place for those exact situations and is required by a number of states.

Collision Coverage
While it’s an optional coverage, you’re probably going to want collision coverage for a newer car — and if you’re engaged in a lease or loan contract, it’s going to be required as part of said contract. Sometimes accidents happen in which it’s difficult to decipher which party is truly at fault. In those cases, both parties will suffer property damage to their respective vehicles. Your car may have a gash in the front, or a smashed headlight. Since it could take a bit for one side to be ruled at fault, collision coverage is the best way to get the repair taken care of. It will usually come with a deductible — better known as the portion of the price of the repair that you are responsible for yourself — but the cost of any damages over and above the deductible are covered.

Comprehensive (aka Other Than Collision) Coverage
Sometimes damages to your vehicle are not the results of an accident between two vehicles. It’s possible… a tree fell on your windshield. Or maybe you hit a pole causing damage to the front grill. Whatever the cause, don’t worry — there’s an optional coverage for that (again required by most lease or loan contracts). Comprehensive coverage will cover any loss caused by something other than a collision less your deductible, and most companies don’t even include a deductible if it’s just for an auto glass repair.

Helpful Tips

  • There are many auto insurance companies out there in cyberspace—especially the big names that you’ve probably seen in commercials including State Farm, Geico, Progressive, Farmers and esurance (which is an Allstate affiliate). They will all promise the best prices. Get quotes from more than one company and be sure to speak with an agent about the particulars.
  • Read your policy when it comes in the mail. I know, it’s a drag and it’s long. But do your best to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions.
  • If you have a lease or loan contract, know their auto insurance requirements. Not only will your financial institution most likely require the purchase of comprehensive and collision coverages but they will also ask for higher limits of liability.
  • Be sure to check your state’s required liability limits. In the above example, I used New York’s required limits of 25/50/10—but your state may require higher or lower minimum limits.
  • Educate yourself further. I’ve covered a lot here, but there is more to auto insurance than just coverages, limits and deductibles.

Your Insurance Cheat Sheet, Part 1: Auto Insurance

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

fallen-tree-1088514_1920

You don’t want to talk about it. Or think about it. Or figure out how it works. Or deal with the paperwork. Most of all, you don’t want to pay for it.

But…for better or worse, if you want to drive, you need to have auto insurance (in most states).

In another life, I sold insurance. My favorite part of my job was educating millennials about how it works. Like finances, insurance—in any capacity—can seem daunting. There is a great deal of numbers, industry terminology and fine print involved in any one insurance policy. But I’m here to break it down for you as I did with my customers—in the first part of this two-part series.

Liability Coverage

Every auto insurance policy comes with liability coverage, or the portion of the policy that will pay damages to another party. On your auto insurance policy, liability coverage will be listed on a line looking similar to this one:

25/50/10

Keep in mind: all numbers are in thousands. So, ‘25’ is actually $25,000 and ‘50’ represents $50,000.

The ‘25’ is in the first position represents bodily injury damage per person. If the drivers suffers injuries that would cost $10,000 worth of treatment, your policy would front that $10,000. But—if that driver suffers injuries that would cost $35,000 worth of treatment…you’d be short about ten grand. Why? Because your policy limit only covers up to $25,000 worth of bodily injury payments per any one person.

The ’50’ in the second position represents bodily injury damages—wait, didn’t we just cover that? You’re right, we did, but now we’re moving into bodily injury per accident. Say you were once again in an accident, but this time, there were two people in the car—and each person suffered injuries that required treatment costing $15,000 each. Not to worry…you’d be covered. Why? Because $15,000 doesn’t exceed the per person limit of $25,000, and $30,000 ($15,000 x 2) doesn’t exceed the per accident limit of $50,000. However, if both people were injured to the tune of $30,000 each, you’d have to hold on to your wallet.

But wait—what about the big gash in the rear bumper of the car you just hit? What coverage is going to pay for that? The ‘10’ in the third position represents property damage—that is, any damage your at-fault accident caused to the car, or a pole on the side of the road, or a guard rail, to name a few possibilities. And if you’re thinking that in this case it will cover up to $10,000 worth of property damages, you’re correct.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) aka “No-Fault” Coverage

Personal Injury Protection requirements vary by state—but if it’s included in your policy, you are entitled to payment to treat your own injuries in the event of an accident, regardless of fault (hence the nickname no-fault coverage).

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Oh, no—you are involved in an accident with someone who does not have insurance, or carries significantly low liability limits. To put it simply, your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will help you out—it’s in place for those exact situations and is required by a number of states.

Collision Coverage

While it’s an optional coverage, you’re probably going to want collision coverage for a newer car—and if you’re engaged in a lease or loan contract, it’s going to be required as part of said contract. Sometimes accidents happen in which it’s difficult to decipher which party is truly at fault. In those cases, both parties will suffer property damage to their respective vehicles. Your car may have a gash in the front, or a smashed headlight. Since it could take a bit for one side to be ruled at fault, collision coverage is the best way to get the repair taken care of. It will usually come with a deductible—better known as the portion of the price of the repair that you are responsible for yourself—but the cost of any damages over and above the deductible are covered.

Comprehensive (aka Other Than Collision) Coverage

Sometimes damages to your vehicle are not the results of an accident between two vehicles. It’s possible…a tree fell on your windshield. Or maybe you hit a pole causing damage to the front grill. Whatever the cause, don’t worry—there’s an optional coverage for that (again required by most lease or loan contracts). Comprehensive coverage will cover any loss caused by something other than a collision less your deductible, and most companies don’t even include a deductible if it’s just for an auto glass repair.

Helpful Tips

  • There are many auto insurance companies out there in cyberspace—especially the big names that you’ve probably seen in commercials including State Farm, Geico, Progressive, Farmers and esurance (which is an Allstate affiliate). They will all promise the best prices. Get quotes from more than one company and be sure to speak with an agent about the particulars.
  • Read your policy when it comes in the mail. I know, it’s a drag and it’s long. But do your best to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions.
  • If you have a lease or loan contract, know their auto insurance requirements. Not only will your financial institution most likely require the purchase of comprehensive and collision coverages but they will also ask for higher limits of liability.
  • Be sure to check your state’s required liability limits. In the above example, I used New York’s required limits of 25/50/10—but your state may require higher or lower minimum limits.
  • Educate yourself further. I’ve covered a lot here, but there is more to auto insurance than just coverages, limits and deductibles.