No one goes to the road expecting to get involved in an accident. This however is not an excuse for not preparing for one. As it were, road accidents are a real risk that you face whenever you go to the road.
Thankfully, only a few road accidents are serious. Most road accidents usually involve minor scratches, bent bumpers and the like. Should you ever be involved in an accident, here are some of the things you should do.
Check if you and Your Passengers are OK
When you hear that bump or thud, maybe the sound of screeching brakes and splintering of glass, try not to panic. Before you rush out to see what has happened (or what you have done), check whether you are ok. When we are involved in an accident, our bodies usually react by producing high levels of adrenaline-that mammalian fight or flight hormone.
One of its effects is that it numbs pain. Adrenaline is one of nature’s most powerful pain killers. You may be seriously hurt, but your body, reacting to mortal danger, decides to numb the pain to give you a chance to escape from danger.
This way, you may feel wet before finding out that you have a deep cut which is bleeding profusely. Don’t simply rush out. Confirm that you are ok.
There is one key exception here. Should you notice a flame or smoke inside the car, then get out as fast as possible, and if unable, then shout for help.
Apart from yourself, also check whether your passengers are ok. As a driver, you may have had the opportunity to brace yourself for impact, which may have helped you to avoid injury.
This may not be true for your passengers. Even very minor accidents can lead to soft tissue injuries and dislocation of sensitive joints. Broken ribs are also fairly common in minor accidents. Just check to make sure that everyone is fine.
Immobilize your Car
When an accident happens, there is a good chance your car was in “Drive” (D) mode (or do we say “in gear” for stick shifters?). This means that if you leave the car suddenly, the car is likely to move forward.
Even if the car is in neutral gear (N) and is not immobilized, it can roll forward or backward depending on the slope of the road. Before stepping out, make sure you have immobilized the car by engaging the handbrake and by putting in in “Park” (P) for cars with automatic transmissions.
After stepping out, confirm that the car is actually immobilized because some accidents may damage the braking system. If need be, prop the wheels with a piece for rock, or whatever is available where you are.
Check if the Other Driver and Passengers are OK
Even if you are clearly the one aggrieved, don’t rush to the other car hurling insults. The other driver could have behaved like a moron, but don’t take it out just yet. Make it clear in your mind that human life (even a moron’s life) is far much more precious than that most luxurious car, and hence human safety must always take precedence.
Find out if the driver is ok and that his passengers are also ok. What might seem like a minor bump on your car could actually be a very serious hit for the other car. The concern you show at this stage will also be useful to you later on when you get into negotiations regardless of whether you are the one at fault, or not.
If you are amicable from the start, you set a good tone for further engagement. If you find that there’s someone injured, work out a plan to get them help before getting into the condition of the cars.
Secure the Accident Scene
Depending on seriousness of the accident, evaluate whether you need to secure the accident scene. This is where your lifesavers come in handy. Warn motorists on both sides of the road that there is a hazard ahead.
This reduces the chances of a compound accident. It is advisable to ask all your passengers to leave the car and go to a safe distance from the road. It is dangerous for them to stay in a stationary car in the middle of a busy road.
Inspect both Cars
The next course of action is to inspect both cars. The purpose of the inspection is twofold. First you need to check whether the damage is serious enough to involve the police and your insurers, or whether you can handle the matter just the two of you.
Look at the degree of damage to both cars. Depending on impact, damages from car crashes can be as inconsequential as a surface dent that only requires a little nudging to recover.
They can also be serious enough to warrant the writing off of the car. For minor accidents, check for dents, cracks on lamps and lights, damage to paintwork, and broken glass.
For more serious accidents especially if it is to the front of the car inspect for radiator damage, damage to the engine or its components such as broken belts, fluid leakages and funny noises when the engine is running.
As a rule of the thumb, don’t drive a car that’s leaking any kind of fluid after an accident. Leaking coolant will cause your car to overheat, leading to the damage of engine gaskets and may cause your engine to seize (knock).
Oil leaks may also lead to knocking since the engine parts will have no lubrication. Power steering fluid leak will make it impossible to control the car, while transmission fluid lead can damage the car.
If your bonnet is bent, avoid opening it on site because it may not close. This also applies to bent doors. The bent metal stores up some of the energy from the impact and may refuse to go back into position if you release that energy. Its better opened in a garage.
Decide on Whether to Involve Cops and your Insurers
Any damage that will require more than the value of excess on your car should generally be reported to the insurance company and the police.
That said, if you decide to pick the tab or if the other driver agrees to compensate you, then you can go ahead and settle the matter yourselves.
Always have a mechanic on call who you can consult on cost of parts and repairs if you decide not to involve your insurer. In addition, be careful if the other driver offers to repair the car using their own mechanic.
Be sure that the services you get are up to your desires. Always try to get your own mechanic to handle the repairs.
Exchange your Details with the other Driver
Before leaving the accident scene, always get the details of the other driver. The details you need are their driver’s license details (license number, and expiry date), their National ID Number, their insurer, and the policy number on their insurance certificate (sticker on the windshield).
If you agree to settle the matter between the two of you, have an agreement drawn and let it be signed by both of you. Always try to get someone to witness the agreement. The other details you should collect include the number plate of the car, its make and its model.
Report the Accident and get a Police Report
If you decide that the accident it too major to resolve, then call the police and have a police report drawn. The police report is very critical for the claims process.
A traffic policeman will assess the accident scene and will determine who is at fault. Once this is done, the policeman will write an incident report which you will then use to make your claims.
You should also make sure you report the incident to your insurer when you make the decision to involve the police. Your insurer will further advice you on how to handle the situation and how to commence the claims process.
Arrange for Towing
If you have a policy benefit that includes towing of your car after an accident, this is where it comes in. Your insurer may ask you to get a towing service and claim the cost later.
Alternatively, the insurance company may also send a towing vehicle to the scene to tow your car either to safety or to a garage approved by the insurance company.
As we have already stated, don’t attempt to drive the car if it is leaking any fluids or if you hear it making funny noises.
Fill your Insurance Claim Forms
The final part of dealing with an accident is filing the claims form. Many companies currently make it possible for their customers to download their claim forms online. Download and print the form. Fill all the required fields and attach all required documents. Some companies also allow you to make your claim online.
In this case, you will fill an online claim form and attach scanned copies of all relevant documents to file the claim. Whatever process your insurer uses, follow it to the letter if you hope to make a successful claim.
Once your claim is processed, then we can say that you have successfully managed to handle all the issues that arise when you are involved in an accident.