Car accidents are no joke for finances. An accident involving a vehicle weighing several thousand pounds can result in:
- Car insurance hikes
- Vehicle bodywork
- Medical bills
- Income lost from time missed off work
- Other costs incurred due to injuries, such as having to hire a driver or caretaker
One of the costliest car accident situations happens when a driver is ruled negligent in court after being sued by an auto accident attorney representing the other party. This is a potentially nightmarish situation that can result in stress and costs for many years to come.
One of the most emotionally and financially taxing situations is when another party dies in a car crash. Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 30,000 people are killed in car crashes every year in the U.S., resulting in more than $44 billion in medical and work loss costs. The U.S. has the highest car crash fatality rate out of any developing country in the world.
Serious injuries can be similarly debilitating. The CDC reports Americans spend more than 1 million days in hospitals every year from car crash injuries, which total more than $18 billion in lifetime medical costs.
If you're going to drive, it's best to know the dangers and risks you face on the road and stay protected before and after an accident. Here's how to make sure your wallet stays healthy, even with the risk of a car accident.
First Thing's First: Get Car Insurance
In every state plus the District of Columbia, except for New Hampshire and Virginia, it is a legal requirement to have car insurance. In New Hampshire, drivers are responsible for up to $50,000 for liability and $25,000 for property damage after a car accident. In Virginia, if you drive uninsured, you must still pay the state $500 a year, and that does not provide any coverage.
If you're in an accident without insurance, you're most likely breaking the law, which can result in an arrest and legal fees. You'll then be liable to pay for damages out of pocket. It's not worth the risk.
Some insurance companies offer “accident forgiveness” for first-time minor accidents. Shop around and compare carriers to find the one that provides the most value to you.
Stay Calm and Collected at an Accident Scene
If you have insurance, drive, and get into a car accident, do not admit any blame to the other motorist or any witnesses at the scene. A car accident can be scary and stressful, but it's best to stay as calm as possible because admitting wrongdoing is not suitable for your case. If you are deemed at fault for any part of the accident, your insurance premium may increase.
Make sure you and anyone injured at the scene get medical attention. Contacting police, in any case, may be wise, as well, because the police will be able to document the scene and provide you with a record for your protection. When conversing with police, stick to the facts, and point out anything the other driver did that may have contributed to the accident.
Ask for the following information from the other driver. This is what you'll need to provide to your insurance company and will help keep you protected in case the driver is lying or tries to avoid dealing with the fallout from the accident.
- Full name
- Full name(s) of passenger(s)
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- License plate number
- Insurance information, including carrier and policy number
Also, ask for the contact information of the police officer, including their full name and badge number.
Your insurance company and the other driver's insurance company will work to create a settlement offer based on the accident. As much evidence as you can provide, including a police report, the better. At the accident scene, take photos or videos of your vehicle and the other party's. If you notice anything suspicious, such as the odor of alcohol or illegal drugs, document it and point it out to police.
Also, if you are injured, be sure to document your injury through photos and keep organized medical records.
If there are witnesses at the scene, ask them if they are willing to share their contact information in case your insurance company would like to contact them. If you call the police, point out potential witnesses the police officer may talk with to gather witness information and testimony.
Contact Proper Parties
As soon as possible after the accident, contact your insurance company so that they can begin their investigation and get you compensated quickly. Your insurance policy may also have rules about how soon you must notify them. Not notifying your insurance company promptly may result in the inability to file a claim in the future.
Depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries you sustain, you may be entitled to more compensation than an insurance company is willing to offer. It is in insurance companies' best interests to offer as little as possible. Your claim may result in no compensation at all, despite damage to your vehicle and your body.
If the negligence of another party is to blame, and their dangerous behavior put you at risk, you deserve protection. Factors including drunk driving, texting while driving and unsafe driving behaviors like speeding may all constitute negligence.
Contacting an auto accident attorney after a serious car accident may be wise. Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations and work on a contingency basis, meaning they don't get paid unless you do. At the very least, talking with a legal expert can give you peace of mind that you're taking the right steps to protect your finances after an accident.