Don’t panic, here are the steps to take if another driver hits your car
Getting into any kind of car accident is always a scary experience, but when another driver hits your car, whether you were there at the time or not, it can be extra frustrating. If another driver hits you in traffic, dents your bumper while your car is parked or sideswipes you and speeds away, you’ll need to know what to do to make sure you’re safe and how you can get any compensation you deserve from their insurance.
In general, most of the steps you should take after a car accident are the same no matter who was at fault: Make sure you’re safe, call the police, don’t leave the scene and document everything so you can file a claim with your insurance. But when another vehicle hits yours, and the other driver was at fault, the specific actions you need to take can vary depending on the situation.
Say you come outside to find that someone has hit your parked car, leaving it damaged. Just like after another type of accident, there’s a certain set of steps you should follow.
One of the first things you should do is call 911, even if no one is injured. The responding officer, or officers, will write up a police report documenting the accident, which may be necessary to make an insurance claim on the damage.
You should also try to collect as much information as possible. If the driver who hit your parked car is at the scene, take down their insurance information, including their provider name and policy number. You should also record their license plate number, as well as the make and model of their car.
If the other driver isn’t at the scene, let’s hope they did the right thing and left a note. If they didn’t, well, that would make it a hit-and-run, which is a scenario we’ll go over later. But assuming they left a note with their name, contact information and insurance policy number, snap a quick photo of the note so you have an extra copy.
If you have a smartphone handy, you should also take photos of the damage to your car as well as the location of the incident. Ask around to see if there were any eyewitnesses and get their contact information too. If your car insurance company has a mobile app, you may be able to report the accident right from the scene, and upload your photos and other information straight into the app.
Now you’ll need to start the claims process. Contact your insurance, if you haven’t already, and give them all the necessary information. Tell them you’re planning on filing a claim with the other party’s insurance. Then notify the other party’s insurance and tell them you’re filing a claim against one of their policyholders. You can usually do this online or over the phone.
Stay on top of the process, you may be asked to provide more documents or information. The other driver’s liability insurance should cover the damage they caused. If you’ve notified your insurer, they may also work with the other party’s provider.
If you’re in an accident caused by someone else while you’re driving, follow the same steps you’d take after any car accident:
Pull over and get to safety. Turn on your hazards or light flares so other drivers know to stop. Then evaluate the scene and check yourself and any passengers for injuries.
Call 911. Police officers can check everyone involved for injuries, and they’ll also write up a police report that you’ll need when filing a claim.
Collect all the required information. That includes names, license plate numbers, insurance policy information, date and time of the accident and contact information for any witnesses.
Document the accident. Photograph the cars, location, license plates and any other details. You can even draw a diagram of the accident while it’s still fresh in your mind.
File a claim. Now we get to the insurance part of things. Even if you believe the other person was at fault, you should still notify your insurance. Your provider will work with the other party’s insurance company to determine who was at fault and what will be covered. If it’s clear that the other driver was at fault, you should still tell your insurance provider that you’re planning on filing a third-party claim with the other party’s car insurance company. If your car was damaged and the other driver was at fault, their liability insurance would pay for the damages or injuries they cause. Just like filing a claim with your own car insurance company, filing a third-party claim with another driver’s car insurance can usually happen either online or over the phone. Be sure to have all the necessary information handy when you file a claim— you’ll need all that info you collected at the scene.
Follow-up. Stay in touch with both insurance providers as you move through the process. Depending on the extent of the damage to your vehicle, you may also choose to file a claim through your own insurance if you have collision coverage, which covers damage from an accident regardless of who was at fault. If you’ve filed a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance company, you should eventually receive a payment made out to you directly.
If another driver hits you and they don’t have any car insurance, or the car insurance they have can’t cover the full extent of the damages, the damage they caused may be covered by your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or UM/UIM. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage exists for just this scenario — it covers you if you’re in an accident caused by someone who doesn’t have insurance, or whose insurance can’t cover all the damage.
As we mentioned above, collision coverage will also coverage damage to your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who was at fault, but collision coverage usually requires you to pay an out-of-pocket deductible before it covers the rest of the costs.
If someone hits you while you’re driving and speeds off, or hits your parked car and doesn’t leave a name or a note, that’s what’s considered a hit-and-run. When you’re involved in a hit-and-run, you should still follow many of the same steps as you would in any car accident, like calling 911, recording any details about the other driver that you know and taking photos of the damage.
If your car was parked when it was hit, you can ask people nearby if they witnessed the accident, and take down their information. There may also be businesses nearby that have security footage of the accident, which could be helpful.
If your car was damaged in the hit and run, don’t panic. The damage may still be covered by your own insurance, even if you never successfully identify the other driver. Depending on the state you live in, damage from a hit and run may be covered by your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Collision coverage can also cover damage to your car after a hit-and-run. And if you were injured in a hit-and-run, your personal injury protection, or PIP, may cover medical bills as well as other expenses related to an injury, like lost wages or childcare.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius in New York City, and an expert in auto insurance. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic, writing about news and culture. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.