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11 Things To Do (And 5 Things To Avoid) If You Get In An Auto Accident

Donald Smith -- No matter how well you drive, you'll probably be involved in a fender bender sometime in the next few years.

Here's a list of tips will help make your accident less traumatic.

DO:

1) Prepare by having a notepad, a few pens, and a disposable camera in the glovebox. Print out this article and store it to help you remember what to do.

Sketch the accident scene, noting all cars involved, roadways, direction of travel, skid marks, and anything else to help your case. Write a description of what happened. Note any contributing factors like wet roads, or blocked signs that couldn't be seen. Date, time, and sign your notes. Photograph the scene.

2) Beware of accident scams. Some thieves will pretend to have an accident by bumping the rear of your car on an empty road. When you get out of the car to investigate, they rob you or steal your car. Drive to a populated place or police station before getting out of your car if things seem suspect.

3) Copy down driver's license numbers and vehicle owner's registration. Remember that the owner (i.e. the insured) might not be the driver. Find out the insurance company name, passenger's names, and the work and home telephone number of the driver.

4) Record license plates and VIN's (vehicle identification numbers) from the other cars. The VIN is located on the driver's side of the dashboard and can be seen through the windshield. This will you later on help if the driver happens to have stolen plates and a bogus registration card.

5) Collect names, addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses.

6) Call the police if the accident is on a public roadway. They can help document your case and prove how it happened.

7) Move your car and yourself off the highway after getting all your data/evidence. Standing in the street or waiting in your damaged car on the roadway can be dangerous. Turn on your flashers and put up warning triangles well in front of the accident to warn other drivers.

8) Observe the other drivers' actions after the crash. If they are crawling under their car to inspect damage after an accident, then they don't have a serious injury. A photo of this wouldn't hurt your case.

9) Control your temper. It is easier for the police to determine you are at fault if you are a raving hothead. You will be the one they remember two months from now in court. Stay cool.

10) Get the names and badge numbers of police present. Each officer may have a different view of what the evidence was, and having contact with all of them might help your case.

11) Get a copy of your claim file from your insurance company. Double check to make sure your claim is accurate. A mistake found today can save you from paying high premiums in the future.

DON'T:

1) Don't admit fault to anyone. Your words might be used against you later.

2) Never discuss how the auto accident happened. You don't want other drivers' versions of the car accident to influence yours, and you don't want something to slip out that makes you responsible.

3) Avoid moving your car until after you have other parties' license and vehicle registration information. Don't give the other driver a chance to drive off, leaving you with the problem.

4) Refuse to accept any roadside settlements. Often damage can be hidden and much greater than originally expected.

5) Don't let anyone pick your auto repair facility for you. You have the right by law to choose whichever auto repair shop you'd like, and your insurance must cover it. Ask your friends and neighbors for a reputable shop. Pick one that has been in business at least five years, preferably ten. You want a business that will be around if you have problems later.

Donald Smith is the president and founder of Auto Glass America. Visit his Web site at crackedwindshield.com to get more car tips.

© 2004 Donald Smith

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal or medical professional.