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Car collisions — what you need to know

March 18, 2009

No matter how cautious you are, there’s always a chance that you may find yourself in a car accident. Your fault or not, the key is to know how to handle the situation. In this article, we look at three common car insurance situations and how to deal with them properly…

Parking lot bang-up

You’re leaving the store, pulling your car keys from your purse, when you look up to see another car has just hit your parked vehicle. The driver’s stuck around, but now what?

First things first: make sure that the driver isn’t hurt and call 911 if he or she needs medical attention. You’re not at fault, so the incident won’t affect your insurance rates if you make a claim. You’ll want to exchange insurance information with the driver and contact your insurance broker/agent immediately.

If there’s an injury or the damage to the vehicle appears to be over $1,000, then you must call police to the scene. If the damage appears to be under $1,000, then you must report to a collision centre within 24 hours. Since you are not at fault, you won’t have to pay the deductible if there are damages sustained to your vehicle.

Tip: Always report a loss or damage, as some insurance companies will hold you at fault if you do not provide them with police documentation within 24 hours of the accident.

Always have your pink liability slip, also known as your insurance card (which you legally must keep in your vehicle by law; you can be charged otherwise), car ownership, a pen and a cell phone in hand whenever you are using your vehicle to help make the process easier.

Classic car collision
It’s rush-hour traffic and you’re busy trying to calm your kids down in the back seat when you feel a hard bang - you’ve just bumped into the car in front of you, hard. The driver is stepping out of his car, and he looks angry…

The most important thing to do is stay calm. Don’t allow the other person to incite you into an argument or physical confrontation. Instead, contact your local police services and wait on the scene. (Again, note that if damages are over $1,000 or there is an injury you must contact the police immediately, as noted previously.)

If possible, move your car out of the way of traffic; if not, put on your hazard lights. When the police show up, follow their instructions and contact your insurance company, broker or agent as soon as possible to report the incident. Also exchange your name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, vehicle information, license plate, and insurance company and policy number with the other driver.

You’ll also want to take notes about the accident, paying attention to damages on both vehicles. If possible, take photos. Do not discuss or admit fault. Determining fault should be left up to your insurance company and the police investigation. Also, be sure not to sign any documents, unless they are from your insurance provider or the police.

Pedestrian run-in
You’re at a four-way stop, it’s your turn to go, when all of a sudden a jogger seemingly comes out of nowhere and collides with the front of your car, falling on the pavement. You can feel pure panic rising up …

This is a frightening situation, but one you have to deal with in a calm, proactive manner. Get out of your car and see if the pedestrian needs medical attention. Call 911 immediately and stay on the scene. When the emergency crew and police show up, cooperate fully. Call your insurance agent/broker right away.

If your insurance provider finds that you are not at fault, then your policy and rates will remain unaffected. If you’re found to be at fault for the accident, however, your car insurance will cover you to the “Ëœpoint of threshold;’ this is usually a minimum of $500,000 with most policies (although today many policy holders opt for $1 million to $2 million thresholds), which will cover the medical costs for the victim. However, know that if the victim’s medical costs exceed your policy’s point of threshold, he or she can sue you for any additional costs.

Also, to make the situation worse, your insurance provider may file a rule with a regulatory body stating that they won’t renew your policy (either at the end of your term or giving 60 days’ notice). Plus, finding a new provider will be extremely difficult if there’s an open claim to accident benefits being paid out in your case. The lesson? Drive carefully and always respect pedestrians.