Dealing With the Other Driver After a Car Accident
A car accident is an inherently upsetting experience. It is usually sudden, surprising, loud and scary. Your vehicle has sustained some sort of damage and you may be injured – even if you initially don’t think you are.
But if you do your best to remain calm and rational, you can have a civil, constructive conversation with the other driver and avoid making an already bad incident even worse with poorly chosen words and actions that can lead to a protracted battle with the insurance companies (yours and the other driver’s).
So, in the immediate aftermath of a car accident, how should you deal with the other driver?
Keep Conversation to a Minimum
Try to speak with the other driver only to the extent necessary. People often react to an awkward social situation by filling the silence with idle chatter. But the last thing you want to do is mistakenly admit that the accident was your fault or minimize your injuries or the damage to your car.
Simply put: After asking if everyone is okay, any Phoenix car accident lawyer will tell you that your best course of action is to say as little as possible.
Don’t Argue and Don’t Apologize
Don’t argue with the other driver about who was at fault. If the other driver caused the accident, you may be mad and want to yell, but a calm demeanor will keep you from saying something at the scene that can damage your legal rights. Rather than making accusations, let the police and insurance companies figure out who was at fault based on the descriptions of the incident (from you and the other driver) and the evidence at the scene.
Resist the temptation to apologize at the accident scene even if you think you were at fault or made a driving mistake. Some things you shouldn’t say include: “I’m fine,” “It was my fault,” “I’m sorry,” “I didn’t see you,” “It (meaning the car) doesn’t look too bad,” “It’s just a small dent/scratch,” and/or “I don’t think any of us were injured.”
Don’t Answer Questions and Don’t Make Up Facts
Try not to answer questions from the other driver that could affect how the insurance companies or the police figure out what happened (save your answers for them). Just respond with, “I don’t know” or “Let’s wait for the police to get here” if the other driver asks questions like “How fast were you going?”, “Didn’t you see me?”, and/or “Did the wet road make your car skid?”
No matter who you may be speaking with about the accident (the other driver, the police, the insurance companies), it is crucial not to offer estimates or opinions if you don’t have facts to back them up. If you are truly unsure of something about the accident, don’t make up answers or create facts. “I don’t know” is an acceptable response.
Take Photos While Waiting for the Police to Arrive
Instead of speaking to the other driver (which can be risky), use the time before the police arrive to take photos of the accident scene. You’ll want photos from different angles showing the damage to both cars and photos of the road or intersection where the accident occurred.
Exchange Only Necessary Information
You need the other driver’s insurance information so that you can make sure the accident gets reported, especially if the other driver was at fault. Although the driver causing the accident has the legal obligation to report it, you should always contact the other driver’s insurance company even if the other driver claims hey has already done so.
The exchange of insurance and other personal information is one of the few reasons to speak to the other driver after an accident. You need the information to:
- Give an accurate report to the police; and
- File an insurance claim.
You need the following information:
- Other driver’s full name
- Full names of the passengers in the other driver’s car
- Name of the other driver’s auto insurance company, the policy number and the policyholder’s name (if different from the driver)
- Phone number of the other driver’s insurance company
Don’t Try to Cut a Deal
Don’t agree with the other driver that the accident won’t be reported to the insurance companies and that you’ll directly negotiate a settlement without filing insurance claims. Not only is such an agreement unenforceable (the other driver can always report the accident notwithstanding your “deal”) but your insurance company will deny coverage if it finds out about the concealed accident.
Contact a Lawyer
Dealing with insurance companies after a car accident can be frustrating and difficult – especially if you’ve been injured. An experienced Phoenix car accident lawyer at Hirsch & Lyon can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Call any of our offices to schedule a free consultation.