Step 1: Take stock of your condition and the condition of your passengers. If it’s an emergency, step one is obviously “Call 911”.
Step 2: If possible, move your vehicle to the shoulder or place of relative safety. This is especially important in the winter months, where many accidents occur due to icy conditions. If your car slipped and lost control, it stands to reason that you’re in a lot of danger from other cars suffering a similar fate if you don’t get out of the way.
Step 3: If there is another driver involved, try to collect as much information from him/her as possible. A full name, phone number, insurance company and policy number is ideal, but even getting the name of the other driver and his/her insurance carrier can be the difference between getting your claim taken care of and suffering what basically amounts to a hit and run if you can’t find the other driver in the future. It can also be important in this step to not admit any fault, regardless of how the accident came about.
Step 4: If you’re not at fault, it’s especially crucial that you wait for the police and file a report. When drivers are shaken up they might be gracious enough to admit to you on the spot that it was “totally their fault!” but recollections after the fact can be extremely defensive and unhelpful. If you were indeed not at fault like you claim, a police report is an official record of events that tells your insurance company how to file it. The industry these days is getting much better about not charging insureds for “no fault” accidents.
Step 5: Call your agent! It is your agent’s job to be the middle man between you and your giant, bureaucratic insurance company. Call your agent and fill him/her in on what happened, even if both drivers walked away deciding that there wasn’t any need to get the companies involved. The more information we have, the more we can represent you if the other driver’s company comes calling. This also allows the agent to talk you through whether or not it’s worth filing a claim or not. If you have a $1000 deductible and it’s going to cost $950 to fix your fender, you shouldn’t be filing a claim. You’d be surprised how many of these come in!