By: Ursula Nizalowski
Dealing with a car accident is no fun, though it is especially stressful for teenage drivers. Atatistically, teenagers have a higher percentage of getting into an accident particularly in the 16 to 19 year-old age group according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Transportation Safety page. There are various factors that contribute to this statistic, such as lack of experience, inebriation, and reckless actions. What matters more is how a teen deals with an accident. What they do will have long-term consequences on themselves and their future as drivers. We’ve compiled some advice for teens after a car accident to help you and your teens navigate this stressful time.
What To Do
Get Out of Harm’s Way – Regardless of the state the vehicle is in after the accident, it’s important to remain as safe as possible. If the vehicle still works then “Pull over to the side of the road” to get out of traffic as advised by Progressive’s Life Lanes blog. If the vehicle is damaged to the point where it’s difficult to get out, stay put until emergency workers arrive.
Signal Other Drivers – Try to let other drivers know about the car accident so they don’t get hurt as well. Some common ways of doing this are to “Turn on hazard lights” and/or “set up emergency cones” according to State Farm. Either option will work, since it depends on what’s available to use in the vehicle.
Call The Police – Once there is no immediate danger, get in touch with the police via cellphone. If any injuries have occurred during the car accident, then call an ambulance. Regardless of how long it takes for either the police or emergency workers to get to where the accident took place, there are many areas which “legally require you to report accidents” says American Family Insurance.
Gather as Much Information as Possible – To give the police an accurate depiction of what happened during the car accident, it is best to take notes. Pay attention, if you can, to various details such as driver and passenger names, the speed of the vehicles-in-question, and road conditions. These details help make the policemen’s job easier when accounting for the various factors that caused the accident. They also give the drivers a stronger case when dealing with legal issues such as liability. This information will be useful for insurance agents when they handle the payments that will inevitably result from the accident.
What Not To Do
Leave The Scene of The Accident – It’s understandable for teen drivers to not want to deal with the consequences of a car accident, especially when they think it might have been their fault. So one might feel inclined to leave the area if one’s vehicle is still drivable. This kind of act is considered illegal and will lead to additional fees and jail-time “depending on the severity of the accident” according to the Anapol Weiss law firm.
Assign Blame – As human beings, we often want to blame others for our misfortunes. In car accidents, both drivers are stressed out and don’t want to believe they caused the accident. Yet regardless of who did what, blaming anyone doesn’t help the situation. It paints a murky picture for the police which further complicates the legal ramifications of the accident.
Make Statements to Anyone Besides The Police – Since the police are the highest level of authority when it comes to dealing with accidents, it’s better to make statements about the accident to them. Statements made to the other driver involved in the accident, can be used in a negative way. Police officers are only trying to collect facts. They are not trying to hold anyone accountable until enough evidence is gathered.
Fail to Take Necessary Steps in Accident Aftermath – While the steps listed in this article are not absolute, many insurance companies and law firms consider them to arguably be the best ways of handling the aftermath of an accident. Because of this, failing to follow one or two steps might have serious consequences. For example, “Careful documentation of an accident will help teens avoid being found at fault for an accident they didn’t cause” State Farm says and so less careful documentation will make teen drivers more liable regardless if they were at fault or not.
What Parents Should Do
Make Sure Insurance Information is On Hand – In addition to providing information to the police, a teen driver should also have information. This includes having an insurance card and the vehicle’s registration in the glove compartment. This documentation is especially pertinent for teen drivers since their parents could be held liable for the car accident due to perceived negligence according to Nolo.
Encourage The Right Things – Because a teenager’s emotions tend to be more unstable than adult’s, their parent should try to be encouraging. In other words, they should try to assure the teen that blaming anyone doesn’t help and tell them to make sure the other driver is okay.
Call Insurance Agent – While policemen and attorneys deal with the legal side of a car accident, it’s the insurance agents who pick up the financial side of the situation. So calling an insurance agent after the accident happens is a good idea. “The sooner your agent knows about the accident, the sooner they can help you get your teen back on the road safe and sound” according to American Family Insurance. After all, the amount of paperwork that insurance agents have to handle will take weeks — if not months — to process.
Help with Any Follow-Up Paperwork – The teen driver will inevitably have paperwork sent their way from insurance agents and policemen. It’s the parents’ job to help them deal with it. For instance, if the papers are from the other driver’s insurance agency, speak to your insurance agency before signing. Some documents, like a claim, have to be filled out to properly report the accident. Teens will need their parents’ help with this.
For any further questions on how to deal with a car accident, feel free to contact accident attorney Rick Wagner.