The majority of the estimated 5 million Americans a year who get into fender benders aren’t sure what steps to take next, nor their obligations or responsibilities, whether to pull out of traffic or call police if there’s only minor vehicular damage.
According to a 2012 survey conducted for the the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, (NAIC) many Americans don’t know the minimal information they are obliged to share with another driver. If you hand over too much information - such as your home address or telephone number - you are putting your personal information and safety at risk.
Here are some telling statistics from the NAIC survey:
•40 percent of respondents felt they should share their driver’s licenses; one in six would allow the other driver to photograph his or her permit as a convenient way to exchange information. What’s the harm? According to NAIC, many retailers accept driver’s license information to verify identity over the phone, though they have no way to verify if the person providing the information is you.
•25 percent of consumers would share their home addresses. If you do this you run the risk of providing potential identity thieves with the location of your mailbox and trash – prime hunting grounds for additional personal information used for ID theft.
•30 percent of drivers think they are required to share personal phone numbers. This is no longer the case.
•20 percent believe the only reason to call the police after an accident is if someone is injured. However, filing a police report can help facilitate the insurance claims process.
The NAIC has developed a smart phone app to guide victims through the accident reporting process.
WreckCheck outlines what to do immediately following an auto accident and takes users through a step-by-step process to create their own accident report. It also provides tips and makes it easy to capture photos of the damage and document necessary information to file an insurance claim.
The app also lets users email a completed accident report directly to themselves and their insurance agents. The app is free and available from the iTunes app store and Google Play.
If you don’t have a smartphone, you can download a WreckCheck accident checklist at http://www.insureuonline.org which includes this advice:
•Stay calm - Call an ambulance if needed. Always call the police. The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has helpful tips and links online at http://www.ct.gov/
•Stay safe - Beware of traffic, fire, injury, debris and weather, all of which can pose risks after a collision.
•Stay smart - Be courteous, but do not admit fault. Always protect your identity. Do not let others copy or photograph your driver’s license or other personal documents.
Information you should obtain includes the other driver’s name and insurance company or insurance agent, agent’s phone number and policy number as well as information about the other vehicle including make, model, year, color and VIN.
Make note of the time, date and location of the accident along with conditions such as traffic, weather conditions and visibility. Describe the accident, injuries and damage to vehicle(s). If possible, get the name and contact information of any eye witnesses, including those of passengers.
For more consumer tips, visit http://www.ct.bbb.org.