There are millions of car accidents in the United States each year, and many of them turn into he-said, she-said battles that can result in an innocent driver being blamed. Fortunately, if you're one of the unlucky drivers on the road, you can play an important role in making sure the police and the insurance company get the most accurate picture of what actually happened.
You already know about contacting the police, filing an accident report, and notifying your insurance company. But here are five steps that can literally save your financial hide should you be involved in an accident that results in a dispute, perhaps even landing you in a courtroom.
You don't have to get out of the car when you do this. Just snap a few photos with your cell phone from your driver's seat that clearly shows the area of impact from your vantage point.
This way, if the cars are moved for any reason, or, if the police report does not reflect what took place, you will now have the physical evidence you need to protect your interests.
Practice Before You Preach
It may take the police upwards of an hour to finally get to you. No injuries, and low volume traffic, usually make most real-world accidents a low priority for the police.
Don't worry. They will come. In the meantime though, go ahead and practice telling your side of the story and record yourself. Practice. It's always best to be calm, factual, and use any evidence available to add support to your statement.
Recording your voice on your phone's audio recorder, if it has one, will help you review the facts and allow you to calm yourself so that your experience can be clearly understood by the officer when it's time to explain what took place.
You Don't Need To Speak With The Police First
There is this myth, propagated by police reality shows, that those who speak first get the advantage. It's not true. Not even close.
Police often see the guilty or anxious party come right up to the police cruiser as soon as they arrive at the scene of an accident. Don't be anxious. Let the police officer come to you. Be reasonably calm, decent, stick to the facts, point out your pictures and physical debris that may be on the road. and let them ask questions.
Record The Conversation
If you are comfortable with recording the conversation between yourself and the police officer, feel free to do so. It's 100 percent legal, and it can often be helpful later if the statements on the police report aren't the complete truth.
Police Reports Can Be Changed
Nobody is perfect all of the time. Just because a police officer writes down a certain thing on their police report, that doesn't mean it represents the final word or even a qualified opinion.
Insurance companies have to reconcile these issues all the time. So if you find that you have been misquoted, or if the information on the report is just plain false, contact the local precinct, and arrange to meet with the officer so that the report can be modified.
By showing physical evidence to the officer, practicing your explanation of the accident, and acting in a calm and fact focused manner, you can protect yourself from the liars among us.