2008 Insurance Guide
a brown sign reading "auto" in grass with a blue sky background
7 steps to take in an auto accident

5. Don't admit guilt.

Express concern for any injuries or damage sustained by anyone else involved in the accident, but don't admit you were at fault.

"Admitting fault or responsibility is usually an emotional statement that isn't well-thought-out," Gutter says.

It may turn out you weren't at fault.

"But because you've admitted liability, you take on yourself the cost of the wreck. Your insurance company would have to pay for the other person's injuries, and you could see an increase in your rate as a result," says Diggs.

He notes that if you acknowledge blame, the police investigation of the accident might not be as thorough as usual.

In conversation with the other driver, you don't want to go beyond showing compassion and exchanging insurance and contact information.

"Don't answer questions or make statements," Gutter says.

6. Keep track of repairs.

Keep abreast of the repair process for your car.

"You don't want to just leave it all to your insurance company," Gutter says. "The insurer would like the repairs to be done in the least-expensive manner. You may not have a lot of options (in terms of where the car is taken and how damage is fixed). But the key thing is to make sure you have the right to have original manufacturer parts put in."

If the other driver contacts you after the accident, you don't want to get involved in discussions. Politely tell the person that your insurers will handle the situation.

And what if the other driver's insurance company contacts you? Your own insurance company can help. "While you are not required to cooperate with the other party's insurance company � your claims representative will discuss the best way to handle your claim, which may include cooperating with the other party's carrier," says Burklin.

7. Treat parking lots like roads.

Treat parking lot accidents the same as road accidents. The crucial issue is who was at fault, just like in collisions on the road. But that's not always obvious in a parking lot. "Often parking lots don't have stop signs or lane markings, and it's unclear who has the right of way," Hanlon says.

"So a lot of the time it's comparative negligence. Unless you were clearly stopped or parked, and someone just backed into you, there will be some negligence attributable to you."


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