You’ve probably heard it a million times: if you have the misfortune of getting into a car accident, you’ve got to immediately swap info with the other driver. That means exchanging details like license plate numbers, contact details, and of course, your insurance information. But what if, for whatever reason, you’re involved in an accident and you don’t get the other driver’s deets?
There can be a lot of chaos that ensues post-accident. Whether you’re too stressed to remember all the items on your checklist or you experience the unfortunate event of a hit-and-run, there are still steps you can take to make sure you’re taken care of.
- Make sure you’re okay. This may sound obvious, but when the shock of an accident sets in, you may lose sight of what’s happening in the present moment. Take a moment to check yourself and any passengers for injuries, and, if you’re able, to move your car to a safe spot.
- Call the cops. We get it — it can feel silly to involve the police in something as seemingly minor as a fender bender. But a police report can be an essential part of filing a claim, so if everyone’s in okay shape, call the police non-emergency line (use 911 if there are injuries or serious damage). It’s best to get a report number if you can.
- Write down what you remember. Pull out a pen and paper, open the Notes app on your phone — do whatever you have to do to start jotting down memories. Any details about the scene of the accident and the vehicle or individual involved is fair game, so things like the license plate number, the color, make, or model of the other car, or anything about the driver can be useful. Do what you can to focus and get it all down on a blank page.
- Take photos. One of the biggest perks of constantly carrying around a smartphone is the ability to snap high quality pics at a moment’s notice. Take pictures of everything you can — the outside of your car, any damage it sustained, the surrounding area of the accident, etc. In the case of a hit-and-run, even the tiniest details could help police find the other driver.
- Look around for witnesses. Not only do you have a phone in your pocket — chances are, just about everyone else in the vicinity does too, and it’s very possible someone else recorded evidence of your accident. But even if no one nearby captured a photo or video of the incident, bystanders may be able to tell you about details you somehow missed, like which way the driver went after the accident, or identifying characteristics about their car. Jot down your witnesses’ info just in case your insurance carrier or the police need to touch base with them later.
- Contact your insurance company. Whether the other driver took off after the accident or even flat out refused to hand over their info, you should absolutely still notify your insurance company about the accident. Not only does your insurance carrier likely require you get in touch within a reasonable time, they can make things easier by taking some of the work out of your hands.
And if you want some added peace of mind, perhaps it’s time to give Metromile a shot; one of our unique features is a virtual assistant named AVA who makes filing claims a snap, and can often verify where and when an accident happened and details like how hard the impact was. In some cases she can even ensure instant payment and help you schedule repairs.
Accidents are never convenient, but following the steps above — and considering whether you have the right insurance provider — will make for the smoothest possible claims process.
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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.