Terry and Tony in South Africa. Two South Africans working from home in East London in South Africa since early 2008.

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What to do After a Car Accident

Knowing what to do after a car accident can make the entire process of claiming from your car insurance place or insurance place a lot quicker and easier. The following information is based on what happened or what we did after a car accident we had in East London on the 15th of July 2013, and hopefully you can learn from our experience about what to do after a car accident yourself:

An accident is an accident – you never know when it may happen to you. Always wear your seat belt and always carry a charged cellphone with a decent amount of airtime in it. It may be handy to always keep pen and paper in the car or on your bag too.

If you’re not seriously injured and as soon as you can stop shaking or calm yourself in any way, get the other driver’s details – details like full name, ID number, car registration number, car colour, make and model, work and home addresses, work and home phone numbers, cellphone number, and email address.

It is particularly important to get as much detail about the other driver as you can if you are slightly – or seriously – injured, and if it is clearly (or even possibly) the other driver’s fault. If you are injured you should seriously consider hiring a personal injury attorney to help you, and if possible, even before you contact your insurance place. Many personal injury attorneys or law firms offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose by at least contacting a few. Speak with a few, and decide if you’d like to file a law suit against the other driver – winning your car accident personal injury case can go a long way to helping you recover medical costs related to your injury, as well as other costs related to the car accident, or new unavoidable costs, or pain and suffering due to the car accident. Remember that you may only feel pain and stiffness a day or two later, and any mild injury or knock to the head may cause complications only later.

Besides it being important to get the other driver’s details after a car accident, also take note of your surroundings – and especially in the case of wanting to sue the other driver. Are there any witnesses to the accident? Get their contact details. If you have a camera or cellphone camera with you, take photos of the scene of the accident, the other car’s registration number, your own car’s registration number, any skid marks, the cars, damage to the cars, the tyres of the other car, road signs and road markings in the area, and also stand a bit away from the scene to get a photo or two of the entire area. Try to get a photo of the other driver too, if you can.

If it is obvious that your car needs to be towed away, call a family member or friend as soon as possible to come and pick you up and to help you with any communications, arrangements, and getting details noted down about the other driver, and about the accident. Remove all your personal belongings from the car – check the whole car for your personal belongings: in the cubby hole, under the seats, in the boot etc

A few minutes after a car accident – after leaving the scene of the accident,

(if leaving with a friend and not in an ambulance – or else family members may need to help you with the arrangements and details in the first few days) even if only the next day if you need some time to recover from the shock of the accident first,
do the following:
a) and a)
go and report the car accident at the police station that is closest to where the car accident happened – also try to speak to a personal injury attorney who may advise you what to do next, and how you should do it
have all details ready eg your own id number, all the details of the other driver and of his or her car, the accident report number you got at the police station when reporting your accident, and then contact your car insurance or insurance place and open a claim – get a reference number, claim number, and note down any different insurance contact numbers or email addresses, fax number, and note down the names of the people you spoke to – also note down the times of these communications
get a panel beater to go look at your car and give you a quote to repair the car (even if it is clear to you that the car is a write off) – if you don’t know which panel beater to call, call the place that towed away your car, and they should be able to refer you to a panel beater, even giving you the number to call
fax or email or give the panel beater’s quote to your car insurance place – or have them email it to your car insurance place as long as they cc you in too, or give you a copy too.
on one sheet of paper write down:
the name of the person at your car insurance place who is mostly handling the claim,
the car insurance claim number for the accident,
the reference number,
your own name (the driver of your own car), id number, and contact details,
and the details of your car (colour, make and model, car registration number),
the other driver’s details, contact details and car details,
on another sheet of paper write a brief but fairly detailed description of what happened during the car accident – repeat the claim number at the top of this sheet of paper too
have a copy of your id and drivers licence done, and have the copy certified – do three or four at the same time in case you need them for something else too – repeat the claim number at the top of this sheet of paper too
draw a sketch of the accident (showing the other car connecting with your car), labelling “my car” and “other car” and showing the direction you and the other car were travelling in, the lanes, any road markings, aroad signs, and the name of the place or area at either end of your sketch (where you were travelling from and where you were travelling towards) – repeat the claim number at the top of this sheet of paper too
fax the four sheets of paper (mentioned in e, f, g, h) to your car insurance place

Be wary of what you say. Say little or say nothing. Especially when considering hiring a personal injury attorney to help you after a car accident, try to keep conversations with anyone regards the car accident to a mininum, or simply say: “My attorney is handling this car accident case, and he will be in touch with you.”

Get started on all the arrangements regards your car accident as soon as possible after a car accident, and before you know it the whole ugly ordeal will be a thing of the past.

© Copyright Teresa Schultz 2013

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