As your student is making preparations to go back to school, now is a perfect time to prepare them with what to do in the case of an accident—before the situation ever comes up. You may even consider printing this step-by-step guide and placing a copy in the glove compartment or center console of their vehicle.
Get prepared in advance.
The obvious things to have accessible in the car are the insurance information and vehicle registration—and, of course, a driver’s license. It is also wise to have an emergency kit in the car. An emergency kit should at least include a first-aid kit, flashlight, seat belt cutter, and a flare or reflective triangle. You may also consider including a pen and paper, a list of medical allergies for regular passengers, and a list of contact numbers (including for local law enforcement).
Make sure everyone is okay and move to safety.
Safety is the number one priority when an accident happens. Before your student takes any action, they must first check to see that everyone involved is okay. If someone is hurt, they should not hesitate to call 911 immediately. The next step to ensure safety is to either move the cars to the side of the road, or to turn on hazard lights, lay out reflective triangles or flares, and do whatever they can to increase visibility of the situation to other drivers.
Call the local law enforcement and file a report.
Even if it is only a minor accident, it is recommended that the local police (or highway patrol) be contacted. An accident report, including the place and time of the accident, the other driver’s information, and an explanation of any damage and injuries will be required when the police are involved. RK Collision Repair Center recommends that you ask for a copy of the police report after it is filed, as the officer’s opinion of the accident will be useful if the drivers have a dispute as to responsibility. If you are unable to obtain a police report, note the officer’s name, badge number, phone number, and police report number. In cases such as minor fender-benders, neither party may want to contact the police. However, there are still benefits to filing a report. If injuries or previously unseen vehicle damage surface later, a police report makes it a lot easier to make an insurance claim.
Exchange information with the other driver.
While waiting for the police to arrive, it is imperative to write down the other driver’s insurance and personal information. At a minimum, obtain their name, address, phone number, make/model of car, license plate number, insurance carrier and policy number, email address, and relationship of the driver to the owner of the car. Encourage your student to also take a photo of the driver. Warn your student to be careful about the information they give out—to never provide their social security number and to never sign a document unless it is for the police or insurance agent.
Do not admit guilt or apologize.
It may seem polite to apologize. However, it is important that your student not admit that the accident was their fault—even if it was! Admitting guilt or apologizing can make things a lot more difficult for the situation later. Advise your student to keep the conversation with the other driver only about facts, and limit discussion about the accident as much as possible. Let the police and insurance companies determine fault.
Always take photos and write notes before you leave the location of the accident.
Take photos of the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle, the damage to the other vehicle, any injuries that might have occurred, and the surrounding area. This can easily be done with a smartphone. However, may also be wise to keep a disposable camera in the glove compartment, just in case. Once you take the photos, take a moment to write down exactly what happened, describing the accident as detailed as possible. The sooner this happens, the easier it will be to give the account to the police and the insurance claims adjuster.
After a car accident, things can get hectic and it is likely that your young adult will have a challenging time thinking straight. The more prepared your student is for the possibility of an accident, the less confused they will be if it happens.
Rick has been in the collision repair business for 40 plus years. Has worked in all aspects of the industry from an Insurance Claims Manager to Body Shop Manger for a large Kansas City dealership.