We all try to avoid car accidents at all costs but unfortunately, even with the best precautions, accidents do happen.

Stop your car

Once a car accident has happened; stop your car, turn off the engine and turn on the hazard lights. Stay calm, get out of your vehicle, if it is safe to do so, and assess the extent of injuries and damage to the vehicles involved.

You are required by law to stop your vehicle if you are involved in an accident in which property is damaged or someone is injured or killed.

Failing to stop and stay at the scene until police arrive is considered a criminal offence and you can be prosecuted.

Call the police and emergency services

Once you have assessed the situation you need to contact the police immediately, especially if another party is involved or if someone has been injured. If someone has been injured, call emergency services.

Call roadside assistance

Most insurance policies include this type of aid, and you should save the number of your insurer’s roadside assistance contact centre to your phone – if you haven’t done it already, do it now.

This means your vehicle will be towed to the correct destination, either to a storage facility or a repairer.

Be careful of unscrupulous tow truck drivers

Some insurers do limit what they will pay out if you don’t use their preferred towing provider.

For instance, if a non-affiliated tow truck takes away your vehicle and asks for R10 000 to release it, your insurer may say they’ll only pay R1 500 towards the cost. This means that you’ll be liable for the balance.

Record the accident

If your cell phone hasn’t been damaged in the car accident, use it to take photographs.

Take photos of or write down the following:

  • the damage to your and the other driver’s car
  • the other driver’s car make, model, colour, licence disk and number plate
  • the other driver’s  ID, residential and work address, contact details and insurance information
  • the person and tow truck company taking away your car
  • the road name/s and road type where the accident happened
  • the time and date of the accident
  • the direction of travel, positions of the cars and how the accident happened
  • the weather and other driving conditions
  • the names and contact details of any witnesses
  • number of passengers in each car and any injuries

Having a record of everything will make filing a police report and making an insurance claim that much easier.

Clear the road

Is it advisable to move your vehicle out of oncoming traffic? This depends on the severity of the car accident.

If you’re on a highway in peak morning traffic and you’ve just had a bumper bashing, you should probably move off the road. If it’s a severe accident, involving injuries and extensive damage to the vehicles involved, wait until the police arrive.

Police report

Even if the police are called to the scene, you will need to file a police report at the police station of the area in which the accident happened. This needs to happen within 24 hours from when the car accident happened.

Legalities

Never admit fault at the scene of a car accident, nor blame the other party. Don’t say: “It was my fault, but I have insurance and I’ll pay for your damage.”

If you are in shock or injured, you may not be in a fit state to make any assumptions. Insurance companies recover the damages from each other, and if you admitted fault when you weren’t actually at fault, you might compromise that process.

Make a claim

Submit your claim to your insurer as soon as possible. This must take place within 30 days of the accident. Make sure you have all the correct documentation to ensure a smooth process.

Be aware

Always stay on the alert for those who purposefully cause car accidents in order to make a claim or in order to put you in a vulnerable position.

For crash-for-cash scams, the other driver will purposefully cause an accident, often signalling for you to go before driving into your path. Another tactic is to disengage their brake lights, giving you no warning before they suddenly break in front of you.

Often they will place the blame on you before handing you their insurance information, which has already been written down on a piece of paper. Weeks later, you will receive an exaggerated claim as to maximise their payout.

To avoid this;

  • Be aware of other drivers on the road and give erratic drivers a wide berth
  • Document all aspects of the accident thoroughly
  • Install a dashboard camera (or dashcam) to record any possible accidents

Other, more sinister individuals will cause a car accident to put you in a vulnerable position in which they can steal from you or cause you physical harm.

These often happen at night, while you’re driving alone. The other driver will cause a minor accident and once you’ve pulled off to the side of the road to exchange details, they might attack you as you step out of your vehicle.

To avoid this;

  • Avoid driving alone at night whenever possible
  • Do not leave your vehicle or open your window
  • Insist on driving to the nearest police station to exchange information
  • Memorise or take a photo of their car, number plate, and face if possible
  • Call the police if you do not feel safe

Article credit https://www.essentials.co.za/lifestyle/what-to-do-after-a-car-accident-checklist