Usually when you’re in a car accident, the first thing you should do is call the police. But what if you live in a place with extreme winter weather, like Colorado or Washington? Sometimes, when snow is predicted, drivers are advised only to call the police if someone is injured. It is called “Cold Reporting.” For low-damage fender benders, pedestrians should swap insurance information and continue on their way.
This is potentially problematic for various reasons. It puts you at risk of being given false information from the other driver or even having problems with your claim’s processing, because it’s your story vs. the other driver’s. It can make the insurance claim processing rather tricky, and it can give the other driver the chance to take advantage of you. Here are some things you can do to avoid that.
1. Don’t just ask the other driver for his or her name and insurance information. Instead, ask to see their driver’s license and insurance card yourself. Copy down as much of the information as possible. This way you will know that you have the right information and are not being deceived by the other driver with false information. The last thing you want to find out is that you were told a fib.
2. Before leaving the scene, write a description of the driver, any passengers, and the other vehicle involved. Get the license plate number and state of registration. Write down the make, model, color, and any other identifying information about the car, such as a description of the bumper stickers. This way the driver cannot say it wasn’t him, because you know what he and his vehicle look like and can identify them accurately.
3. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Get a picture of the other driver, their vehicle, the crash and especially the angle of impact, and of any damage to both vehicles. If you can timestamp them, do it. Photograph the accident before you move your vehicles out of traffic. Just get out, and take a few snapshots first. This can help you prove what happens–and make sure the other driver doesn’t inflict further damage on his vehicle, then blame you.
4. Talk to onlookers who saw the accident. Get their names and numbers, so that you can call them as witnesses. Their testimony can be very useful in evaluating whose fault the accident was, which will help you when processing the insurance claim. If you know any of them, try to avoid mentioning that when giving their information to the authorities, and ask them to keep your relationship quiet.
5. Write down the time and location, as well as the speed limit, how fast you were going, and other information you can remember about the area. The more accurate you can be about the details, the more the police and insurance company will trust you. Be reliable, and leave no room for them to find fault with your actions or to doubt your story.
This information can help prove that the accident took place and that it happened the way you claim. You will have a much better chance of properly assigning blame to the other driver, if it is his or her fault, if you do these things. You’ll have a much less chance of being scammed by a liar or having to foot the bill for the costs of the repair due to insufficient evidence. If anyone is injured or it is unsafe or impossible to move a vehicle from the scene, you should call the police and an ambulance. Anytime you are in doubt, call the police.
Of course, it is best to avoid an accident altogether if possible. You should take extra care when driving during adverse weather conditions. In rain, sleet, or snow, never exceed the speed limit. It is best to drive 5 miles or more under it if possible. Keep your lights on even during the day. Make sure your windshield wipers are always in good condition and that your light bulbs haven’t burned out. More importantly, allow for extra stop time when coming to a halt. This will give you more room in case you start sliding. If you do begin to spin, sharply turn the opposite direction that your vehicle is going.
Hopefully if you follow these rules and guidelines, you can not only avoid accidents but prevent yourself from being made a victim. Protect yourself by making sure you have accurate information and giving yourself a way to prove your side of the story.