According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than four million people in the United States are involved in medically serious car accidents each year.
Many millions more wind up in minor accidents and fender benders - some for the very first time.
Any type of car accident is guaranteed to cause stress to your mental and emotional system as well as to your physical body. Car accidents during the holiday season can be especially stressful since everyone is in a hurry and many people are driving while distracted or ill.
While you can't control the actions of the other drivers you share the road with, you can prepare by knowing exactly what to do if you get in a car accident this holiday season.
These tips will help you stay safe and know how to protect yourself and your rights if you are in a car accident this winter.
1. Never ever leave the scene of the accident for any non-medical reason.
Unless you need urgent medical attention, there is never a good reason to leave the scene of a car accident.
Not only can this put you in serious legal hot water and lead to your insurer dropping your car insurance coverage, but you could be arrested for a hit and run incident.
As the U.S. News & World Report states, if you feel like you are in danger from another driver or from surrounding traffic where the accident occurred, or if you are actively blocking traffic and need to move, then call 9-1-1 and report this and tell them where you are going to park to wait for the police.
Then as soon as the police arrive on the scene, you can return to give your statement and get the accident report.
2. Call the police immediately to request an officer to come to your location.
As The Balance points out, your biggest protection after you've been in a car accident is going to be a simple legal document called the accident report.
To get your accident report, you will need to call for a police officer to come to the scene of the crash.
An official police-generated accident report is considered legal testimony and will stand up in court. If you need to pursue legal action against the other driver, the accident report will be a vital piece of evidence.
Since it can take some time for the officer to arrive at the scene, you should call right away before you take any additional steps.
3. Assess the damage and exchange insurance information.
While you are waiting for the police to arrive, use the time to assess the damage to your vehicle and that of the other driver.
Quickly and politely exchange insurance information, keeping conversation to a minimum.
Nerd Wallet states that it is important to document everything with your smartphone or a pen and paper.
Video, photograph or sketch out the whole scene, filling in details of the intersection, type of traffic (heavy or light), time of day, weather, road conditions and other details.
4. Contact your auto insurer to start a claim.
No matter what the other driver says, you are under no legal obligation to talk to their insurance claims agent (although that agent will certainly try to encourage this).
But you do need to call your own insurer and start the process of opening a claim right away. This will give you access to your own policy benefits right away while the details get sorted out between your insurer and the provider covering the other driver.
5. Consider retaining an attorney's services.
Some states have stricter car accident laws than others. In some states, it may be necessary to work with an attorney to file a claim or press charges if necessary.
Know your state laws so you can act in your own best interests.