Road accidents happen, even if you’re a safe driver. Unfortunately, they’re more common than we would hope, with 32,300 injuries sustained in Australian car accidents in 2016.
What matters is how you handle the aftermath of the accident.
If you’re involved in a car collision, it’s normal to be anxious, even frightened. But you can’t allow emotions to overrun your judgment. And while it’s easy to feel helpless, you can take specific steps to ensure everyone is safe, adhere to the law, and ensure all claims are settled.
In this post, we’ll share the things you’ll need to do after a car collision.
What to Do After a Car Collision?
First, check to see if anyone is injured. If you can safely move, take pictures of the scene. This is critical to support your case to the police and insurance companies, ensuring your lawyer has evidence to work with.
If the car can move, pull it to the side of the road to avoid obstructing other drivers. Otherwise, leave it where it is, apply the handbrake, switch on your hazard lights, and get yourself and your passengers to safety.
Make Sure Everyone is Okay
You can’t help anyone if you can’t help yourself, so always check yourself for injuries first. Keep in mind that this may be an open wound or an internal injury, so check and see how you feel–something that isn’t obvious may make itself known through aches, even if there’s no open wound.
If there are other passengers in the car with you and you can safely move, make sure your passengers are alright. You can provide basic care, like checking someone over or stopping any bleeding but do not attempt to administer more serious medical care, and do not move someone.
Even if everyone in the car seems to be alright, dial 000 or ask someone else to do it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you have serious injuries, try not to move until emergency personnel arrives unless you are in immediate danger in your current position–you may unwittingly worsen an injury.
If medical personnel are not required, it’s still a good idea to dial 000 and speak with responding officers. Insurance companies will use a police report as evidence, and it helps strengthen your claim at a later date.
After ensuring everyone, including yourself, is safe, it’s important to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. You should share:
- Full name and contact information (phone number, email, and home address)
- License plate and driver’s license numbers
- Color, type, model, and brand of the car
- Insurance provider and policy number
Do not allow someone to photograph your driver’s license or registration.
When exchanging details, be extremely careful to avoid admitting fault. Even if you feel guilty (even if it actually was your fault) this will significantly weaken your claim later on. Avoid saying anything that may be construed as an admission of fault, including apologising for the accident.
When the police arrive, be polite but direct. Share the relevant details, keep it simple, and do not admit fault.
Document the Accident
After an accident, you need to protect yourself. That means gathering as much information on the collision as possible.
Take pictures of both cars and the scene from different angles. The images should clearly show the damage done to both vehicles. Again, these photos are essential when filing a claim. You’ll need to share them with your insurer.
If there were any witnesses at the scene, you could take down their names and contact information with their consent.
Once the police arrive, be sure to get the names and badge numbers of the responding officers. Ask the officers how you or a lawyer can retrieve a copy of the accident report for your insurance claim.
Inform Your Insurance Company and Lawyer
Before leaving the accident scene, you need to call your insurance agent. While it’s not enjoyable, you are legally obligated to report the accident to your insurance company. This is even more important if there’s any property damage. Keep in mind that a property valuation will be necessary in that case.
If you sustained injuries, you’ll need to inform a personal injury lawyer and get your medical report after treatment. Reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible and let them speak to your insurance company on your behalf. That way, you can ensure your side of the story is heard and you get the compensation you deserve.
File a Claim
Your insurance agent will guide you on how to file a claim if you’re unsure about the process. Be sure to understand whose coverage pays for the damages. If there were injuries, you also need to get a medical report.
If you choose to hire a lawyer to represent you after the accident, they can also guide you through the process of filing a claim.
Factors in an Accident That Could Have Been Avoided
Most accidents can be avoided. In some cases, following simple road traffic rules and respecting other drivers is all it takes. And while you can’t control what every driver does, you can control your own actions on the road.
1. Distracted Driving
Did you know that Australian drivers are distracted nearly 45% of the time? It happens more often than you think–every 96 seconds, a driver is distracted by something other than the road.
When driving, it’s important to stay focused. Accidents happen in a split second, so learn to keep your eyes on the road. You should avoid engaging in other activities that require focus while driving, such as texting or using your phone.
2. Reckless Driving
Your driving should be guided by your surroundings. For example, you should watch for other road users, respect traffic lights, and change lanes carefully. In some cases, the use of common sense overshadows common rules–if it seems like a bad idea, it probably is.
You should be able to judge situations accordingly before responding or making any move. Someone overtaking you doesn’t need to turn into a race. If you have the choice, choose to be safe instead of reckless, and drive with extra caution around careless drivers.
3. Drunk Driving
In Australia, drunk driving is the number one contributing factor in 30% of crashes, and 1 in 4 drivers killed on Australian roads have a BAC exceeding the legal limit.
So, before taking alcohol when you have to drive, give it a second thought.
Alcohol impairs your thinking, muscle coordination, and reasoning, and these abilities are essential when operating a vehicle. Increased alcohol levels in the body also affect the central nervous system. This affects how you respond to situations when driving. In Australia, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .05 or higher.
If you have to drink, be responsible. Get a sober driver or take a taxi home.
Speeding is one of the common causes of car collisions that can be avoided. In fact, it’s the leading behavioral factor in road deaths and injuries in Australia.
Listen, we get it. We know life is full of frustrations. We know you have a busy schedule. But observing the speed limits protects everyone on the road–including yourself.
There are also cases when the speed limit is too high for road conditions. For example, during bad weather or when driving in an area that’s poorly lit, be sure to limit your speed as needed. Always be alert and watch out for blind spots when accelerating.
Remember: the faster you drive, the less time you have to react.
5. Neglecting Turn Signals
Modern vehicles come with different features to ensure safety while on the road. One of them is the turn signals, which you should never ignore. When making turns or changing lanes, be sure to use the signals to alert other drivers.
A study by the Society and Automotive Engineers suggested that neglecting turn signals is more dangerous than distracted driving. You should also observe the cars ahead of you before overtaking them or changing lanes.
6. Ignoring Car Maintenance
Your vehicle is only useful when you take care of it properly. So, blatant disregard for car maintenance can lead to car collisions. For example, driving with bald tires can lead to a spin-out accident during rainy weather.
You should always get regular car service to check your brake pads, tires, brake system, and headlights.
7. New or Teenage Drivers
Did you know 8 in 10 P-platers and more than half of all learner drivers engaged in some form of risky driving during their last 10 car trips? And because young Australian drivers under 25 are the most likely group to engage in risky driving, they’re also the most likely group to cause fatal car accidents.
These crashes are preventable, and there are strategies you can use to stay safe on the road as a new or teenage driver. Being inexperienced can make you overestimate or underestimate situations. You might also not be able to recognise dangerous situations.
If you’re a new or teenage driver, take things slow and always drive in the company of a mature person or an experienced driver.
7 Keys to Defensive Driving
Learning defensive driving skills can help you avoid common road collisions and stay safe on the road. Such skills can save time, money, and lives.
There are courses you can take to improve your drinking skills, even if you’re an experienced driver. New vehicle designs and changing rules demand drivers to upskill themselves. Taking refresher and defensive driving classes can really help. For example, the National Safety Council (NSC) offers online defensive courses, which you can complete in 2 or 4 hours. There are also several Australian companies offering defensive driving courses.
Here are some skills you should learn:
- Keep your speed down – There are usually posted speed limits on every road – make sure to adhere to them. You should also match your speed to your driving conditions and surroundings. It’s easier to control your vehicle when driving at a moderate and reasonable speed.
- Cut out distractions – Once you get behind the steering wheel, bear in mind that driving is your only activity. Avoid other activities that distract your focus, such as texting, changing radio stations, and eating. If you have to do anything, one hand should always be on the steering wheel.
- Know your surroundings – In any driving situation, knowing your surroundings helps you know an escape route. It’s crucial in making split-second decisions to avoid hitting other road users or crashing your car.
- Keep your distance – A huge part of defensive driving is keeping your distance when driving behind other vehicles. This provides you adequate room to manoeuvre quickly in case of anything. Also, if you see a careless driver, it’s best to keep your distance.
- Know your blind spots – Whenever you’re driving, always know your blind spots. This is important when making turns, changing lanes, or reversing your car. Check the position of your vehicle to ensure everything is clear before making any move.
- Watch out for hazards – Looking ahead while driving helps you to identify and even anticipate dangers before they happen. This is particularly important when driving at night. Look out for animals, potholes, children, other drivers, and any obstacle on the road.
- Follow the rules – This is the most effective defensive driving skill. Your chances of getting involved in a car collision are very minimal when you don’t break the law. For example, always ensure lane discipline and observe speed limits. These simple rules really help.
As a driver, you’ll always encounter careless drivers on the road. You shouldn’t be quick to react to their behavior or habits – think about safety first. Avoid aggressive tendencies that are likely to put you in a regrettable position. Focus on your safety and that of your vehicle.
Car collisions happen every day on Australian roads due to different reasons. Some of these cases are entirely avoidable, depending on how drivers respond to particular situations. What matters is how you control your vehicle while making split-second decisions.
If you have to be involved in a road accident, it’s vital to know the necessary steps to take to protect yourself, your vehicle occupants, and other road users. Try your best to stay calm and avoid panicking to handle the situation. Document the scene, call the police, inform your insurer, and contact your lawyer if necessary.
You should also strive to be a good driver, and this involves learning defensive driving skills. Keep in mind that you can always control your actions when driving. If you’re a new driver, beware of the road rules, always have the seat belt on, and limit your driving speed.
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