Most people plan their vacations weeks or even months in advance. They’re looking forward to the relaxation it will bring—but if you’re in a car accident while visiting a different city, you might be confused about the next steps.
According to research shared in a Travel Inspired Living article, 77 percent of automobile accidents occur within 15 miles of the home when you’re in familiar surroundings. There’s usually more traffic, and your guard is down.
The article states that “23 percent of [the time] an accident occurs far from home, like during a vacation road trip, or while you are travelling for work. In those situations, you are far from everything familiar, which can make an already stressful situation worse.”
Insurance policies and laws differ across state lines, and if you’re unsure about handling a car accident while traveling, use this guide to help you through it.
Follow Procedures for Handling a Car Accident
Although you’re completely out of your element while traveling, handling a car accident while you’re away from home is very similar to the way you’ll handle one while at home. There are several steps you’ll want to take including:
- Check for injuries and call the paramedics for full medical examinations.
- Contact the police to block off the accident and file a report that can be accessed later.
- Exchange contact information with the other driver(s).
- Contact your insurance company and file a claim or not. (You may choose not to if the damages are minimal and you don’t want your policy to increase).
If you’re driving a rental car, you’ll also want to contact your rental company and inform them of the accident. They’ll have instructions for how to proceed, and they’ll provide you a new vehicle as well.
Don’t mention to the other driver that you’re in a rental car. They may try to take advantage of the rental company’s insurance policy, which can come back to hurt you. Additionally, check with your credit card company to see if they provide insurance for rental car accidents if you didn’t take the car insurance policy offered at the rental desk.
Consult with a Lawyer
An attorney might seem unnecessary after an accident, but it’s wise to consult one anyway, especially if you or anyone in your party was injured. You might have cause for a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to cover some of your expenses.
Don’t skip this step because you think it’s “greedy” or “self-serving” to do so. It’s completely in your best interest, and you might not realize the extent of the financial repercussions down the road.
“After a moderate to serious car crash (that may leave your car broken) , you are probably facing enormous medical expenses,” says a car accident article from Will Ferguson & Associates, an Albuquerque personal injury firm. “You’ve missed time at work, and you’re facing the many other financial losses this accident has brought about in your life. You may also be dealing with emotional distress, fear, and physical pain. You deserve justice.”
Additionally, an attorney can help protect you against potential accident scammers who cause a fender bender and then blame you for injuries so that they can sue. Call a local attorney who knows the laws of the area where the accident occurred. They’ll help you document the accident and protect yourself when you’re in unfamiliar territory.
Figure Out Travel Plans
Depending on the severity on the accident, you may need new transportation. Typically, a rental company will provide a replacement vehicle for you if you were driving one of their vehicles, although they may charge you an additional fee if the accident was your fault.
If you were in your own vehicle, you can either rent a vehicle to continue your trip or you can stick around until your vehicle is fixed, if it can be repaired. If you’re within an hour of home when the accident happened, consider having your vehicle towed back to your home mechanic so you can take care of everything on the home front.
Resume or Reschedule Your Vacation
You shouldn’t let a car accident prevent you from a little fun and relaxation. If injuries were minor or nonexistent, you should be able to continue your trip without a problem. You might have to make slight alterations to your plans based on this delay, but it can still be a fun trip.
If you or others in your party are unfit to travel—or you’re simply not in the mood after this event—it might be best to head home. Reschedule your vacation for another day when you can enjoy traveling and all it has to offer. It’ll be a bright spot for you as you heal and overcome the challenges of an accident.