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5 Mistakes After a Car Crash That Can Cost You Big

Think a car crash only happens to someone else? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, police recorded 6.1 million accident reports in 2014, the most recent year for published records. That translates into a reported accident once every 51 seconds. Although three out of every four involved only property damage, 2.3 million people were still injured, and nearly 33,000 died.

Chances are pretty good that each of us will be involved in at least a fender bender in our lives. No matter the circumstances or who is at fault, any car crash — big or small — will probably cost you some money. Minimizing the amount of money requires keeping a clear head — and not making one of several common post-car-crash mistakes identified by

Not Taking Photos

It’s true: A picture is worth a thousand words. When a car crash occurs, take photos of everything — and everything means everything! Snap photos of the vehicles involved from every angle inside and out; get photos documenting the area where the crash occurred; and if you can, take photos of the occupants of any vehicles involved, as well as any bystanders. Such photos may be helpful in supporting your version of the accident, road conditions and identifying participants.

Smartphones with decent cameras are fairly common accessories, but if you don’t have one capable of taking a good photo, keep a disposable camera in your car’s glove box. Make sure it has a flash in case of night accidents.

Not Calling the Police

When insurance companies are involved, it’s always best to have a police report. Even if you think the damage is minor, a police report is the official record of the accident. Once the other driver pulls away, it’s your word against his or hers.

Not Getting Enough Information

Never rely on the police report to provide all the information you or your insurance company will need to pursue a claim. It’s not the officer’s job; it’s yours. The minimum information you need to collect at the scene is the name, address, phone number and driver’s license number of the driver of any other vehicle involved.

Every driver should have proof of car insurance. Ask to see it, taking down the name as it appears on the card, as well as the insurance company and policy number. You should try to get the names and contact information of any passengers involved. Finally, make sure you have the name and contact information for the officer filing the report. He or she may also be able to supply the case number under which the report will be filed.

Not Accepting Medical Help

If you’ve ever performed some physical activity and not experienced the soreness until the following day, you understand that just because you feel fine at the scene of an accident doesn’t mean you actually are fine. A medical professional may well detect an injury that otherwise wouldn’t surface for days or weeks. Moreover, the record of such an exam will help bolster a claim down the road if an injury does surface.

Admitting Fault

Always assume that the other driver and his or her insurance company is going to sue. You put yourself and your insurance company at a disadvantage if, after a crash, you hop out of your car and take the blame. Saying “It’s my fault!” can cost you and your insurance company big. First and foremost, you could well be wrong. Allow the facts as gathered by the police and the insurance investigators to determine blame instead.

What it means to you: Accidents happen. You do have some influence, however, over what a car crash will cost you. Keep your head clear, and don’t make one of these five common mistakes.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

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