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Insurance Update

Donna Ryun

More than 35 million accidents occur on our nation's highways every year. Nobody wants to be the one to increase that statistic, but since it's more than likely that you'll be involved in at least one fender bender in your lifetime, it's best to know what to do if an accident happens.

If your insurance company provides you with an accident kit, become familiar with its contents before an accident occurs. Sometimes just knowing what to do can help alleviate the stress that an accident can cause. Make sure to put your accident kit in a convenient place inside your vehicle so that you can use it if necessary. Depending on your insurance provider, a typical kit will include the phone number of the claims department, along with accident information forms and witness cards. The kit will usually give step by step instructions on what to do in case of an accident.

If you are involved in an accident or simply come upon the scene of one, always stop and attempt to get help for any injured parties. First, make sure that you or someone else has called the proper authorities. It's helpful to let them know how many people are injured and how severe, so that adequate emergency units can be dispatched. Don't attempt to move an injured person because doing so could aggravate the injury. Try to make them as comfortable as possible and offer emotional support as well. If you have a blanket, use it to cover the injured person to help alleviate shock.

You should begin to protect the accident scene as soon as possible by setting up reflectors, flags or flares. Once the police arrive, obtain permission to get your vehicle off the road and take steps to protect it from any further damage. Do not authorize any repairs, however, until you have spoken with the claims department of your insurance company. They will probably want to have an adjuster inspect and appraise any damage to your vehicle.

Be sure to ask the investigating police officer how and where you can get a copy of the accident report. Your insurance company will need this document when you submit your claim. Be polite to everyone, but don't accept responsibility for the accident, even if you believe you're at fault. Don't offer your opinion regarding the cause of the accident and avoid making statements prior to speaking with your insurance claims representative.

It will certainly be to your benefit to make notes at the scene of the accident. Even though you think you can remember everything that happened, writing down the details of the accident while you are at the scene may be helpful in case you should forget something later.

If you have an accident kit, the accident report form will prompt you for the information that you will need. If you don't have a kit, simply write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all drivers and passengers who are involved in the accident. Describe the vehicles that are involved, including the license plate numbers. Record the driver's license numbers and insurance information for the owners of all vehicles involved in the accident. Write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses as well.

Don't be afraid to ask the investigating officers for their names and badge numbers, as well as any other emergency personnel. You never know when or if this information could come in handy. If you have a camera, go ahead and take pictures of the accident scene. Note such things as the direction each vehicle was traveling, estimated speeds, and length of skid marks. Describe the type of vehicle damage incurred and make a record of any traffic citations given. Your insurance company will appreciate as much detailed information as you can supply and this could possibly expedite the settlement of your claim.

Notify your insurance company or claims representative as soon as you possibly can. You should always report the accident even if you are not at fault. Keeping good notes will help you to supply as much accurate information to them as possible. Be sure to ask them how you should proceed and approximately when you can expect to be contacted by a claims adjuster. Be prepared to supply any forms or documents that your insurance company may require in order to settle your claim. Your policy requires you to cooperate with insurers in the investigation, settlement or defense of any claim or resulting lawsuit, so you should authorize them to obtain any information which could be relevant to the claim or loss.

Record any expenses (such as medical or hospital bills) you may have as the result of the accident and keep a copy for your own files. These expenses may be covered by your insurance, depending on the type of policy that you have purchased. Keeping good records is always an excellent habit to develop because you never know when you may need them.

Most accidents happen when we least expect them. Knowing what

to do if an accident occurs is the key to relieving accident anxiety. Prepare ahead of time by purchasing your insurance from people

that you know you can trust (such as OOIDA's helpful agents) and remember the information given in this column or provided in your accident kit. You'll be glad you did. LL

 As always, we'll be happy to answer any of your insurance questions. Simply contact OOIDA's truck insurance agents toll-free at 800-715-9369 or E-mail me at