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Be Prepared: Documents You'll Need After an Accident



Auto accident

Getting into an auto accident can be quite a traumatic experience for all involved. If you are involved in an accident, and are able to avoid any type of bodily harm, there can still be serious financial consequences if you are not prepared.

Fortunately, you can avoid serious financial risk by making sure that they you have sufficient car insurance coverage - and just as important - keep those insurance documents in the car at all times.

What to keep in your car:

  • Proof of Insurance. The best way to satisfy the proof of insurance requirement is by keeping your insurance card in the vehicle. While many states have electronic reporting rules that can allow motorists to prove that they have sufficient liability coverage via electronic means, keep a physical insurance card in the vehicle at all times as a backup. Additionally, DMV.org notes, drivers can face legal penalties for not being able to prove that they are covered. These penalties vary by state, the website says, but they can consist of anything from a fine to actual jail time, depending on applicable laws and the circumstances in which they are caught without a policy.

    REMEMBER: You can face legal penalties for not being able to prove that your vehicle is insured. Penalties vary by state, but can consist of anything from a fine to actual jail time.

  • Vehicle Registration. Like proof of insurance, registrations can be processed and reviewed electronically. But, just like your proof of insurance, it is best to keep the physical copy of the registration in your vehicle at all times. Again, rules governing the proof of vehicle registration vary by state, so don’t take the risk of being unprepared. Additionally, make sure that your vehicle is up-to-date on its registration. You don’t want to unknowingly be cited for an unregistered vehicle in addition to being involved in an accident.

  • Dedicated Accident Information Kit. It’s extremely helpful to have a dedicated kit that will allow you to move forward if you have an accident. Having pen and paper handy in the aftermath of an accident will allow drivers to note down critical information about the other driver, including license plate and driver's license number, make and model of the other car, and auto insurance company and policy numbers.

    Such documentation, along with photos and other detailed descriptions of the accident and resultant damages, can help ensure that car accident victims have to jump through as few hoops as possible in order to either minimize their financial liabilities or maximize their ability to collect what they may be owed after such a crash, Edmunds.com adds.

    According to the website, it's also very important for a motorist not to admit fault at the scene of an accident, while remaining as polite and honest with the other driver as possible. They should also be on the lookout, Edmunds.com says, for the other driver changing his or her account of what happened in an accident after the fact, or claiming property damage or physical injury that was not apparent at the time. This is another of the headaches involved with auto accidents that having proper documentation, government-issued and otherwise, can help avoid.

    In general, Edmunds.com says that information is the accident victim's friend. "Make sure that your company has your version of what happened and check your policy - if the damages paid out by your insurance company are below a certain amount, the accident may not be considered chargeable. And you will avoid the penalty of a premium hike," the website advises.

(Sources: DMV.org and Edmunds.com ))

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