Our roads are a breeding ground for accidents, especially during the rainy season, when water comes come down by the bucketful and reduces visibility severely. Whether you commute or not, it’s a sure bet that you’ve witnessed a car accident or, if you’re unlucky, been in one.
The tips in this article are what we think will be most essential should you ever get into an accident. The first rule? Always remember to be careful out there! Don’t assume that just because you’re practicing responsible driving, the people in the cars around you are doing the same as well.
Click on the sections below or just read on to find out what you should do when you get into a car accident:
- Road Accidents: First Things First
- The Right-of-Way Rule
- Determining Who Is at Fault
- On Fender-Benders
ROAD ACCIDENTS: FIRST THINGS FIRST
You never go looking for an accident, but sometimes it finds you—someone cuts in from nowhere, a car pulls up near your blind side, or someone bumps you from behind. If it’s not a high-speed collision, you might spend a few moments in shock before it finally sinks in: you’re in an accident.
Here are four things to remember to do (or not to do, as the case may be) immediately after you’ve been hit or you’ve hit someone:
- Do a spot check.
Before anything else, check yourself. Move your arms, legs and head slowly. If you’re satisfied that you’re okay, check your passengers. Take a moment to regain your composure and be sure to check the traffic outside before you get out of your vehicle. Lock your doors.
- Keep your cool.
Don’t go storming the other vehicle with guns blazing. Whether it’s their fault or yours, do check on them as well. Being calm in an accident and being helpful and polite can go a long way in resolving the matter quickly and amicably for all parties involved.
- Call for help.
It’s also good to keep emergency numbers in your cell phone where it can be dialed easily. Most SIM cards have emergency numbers already saved into your contact list, but if you need medical and police assistance, dial 117. The MMDA can also bring help if needed. The MMDA official website lists 137 as their hotline number.
- Stay put.
Remember not to move your vehicle. Sure, you’re causing traffic, but the investigating officer needs your cars to stay where they were at the time of the accident so she or he can make an accurate sketch and description of the accident. This will also help determine who was at fault.
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(Photo source: sxc.hu)
THE RIGHT-OF-WAY RULE
Generally, whoever has the right of way is the one who is not at fault in an accident. Be sure to brush up on your road rules and always keep this in mind. It’s best to remember that you usually have the right of way when:
You are within your lane.
The party staying inside the proper lane has right of way. When you switch lanes, always inform other cars of your intent by using your signal lights, wait a moment, then move to the other lane. Do not flash your signal light then change lanes right away. This is an invitation for an accident, and when it does happen, you’ll most likely be the guilty party.
You are in front of the car that hits you.
The car in front of you has right of way. If you bump the car in front, that usually means you’re at fault since you see the car in front of you more clearly than you can see the one behind. It’s your responsibility to maintain a decent distance from the car in front of you and to be alert in case it suddenly swerves, slows down, or decides to switch lanes. Don’t tailgate!
Keep in mind that both you and the other party might think that you had right of way. Try to keep a cool head when talking to the other person while you both wait for the investigator to arrive. This might be a good time to inform your friends should you need help or to call your boss or colleagues and tell them you might not make it your appointments since you will need to see this accident through.
Once the investigator arrives and makes a report, you will be asked questions. If she or he asks you to move your cars or take them to the nearest precinct, be sure to do this slowly so that no further damage will be incurred. If you need to have your car towed, the MMDA has accredited tow trucks you can use when you call their number. You might also want to call your insurance broker since they also have towing services available. The Automotive Association of the Philippines (AAP) offers 24/7 towing services anywhere in the country. Their service might be a bit pricey, but they make sure your car is safely towed.
Since the investigator is there, this would be the best time to exchange contact information, regardless of who you may think is at fault. Be sure to get the other driver's name, cell phone and land line numbers, license number, and car registration number. Be sure to have yours ready as well.
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(Photo source: sxc.hu)
DETERMINING WHO IS AT FAULT
Be it at the precinct or just on the side of the road, the investigator will interview you and the other party to get an accurate description of the accident. The investigator will also serve as a witness to your settlement with the other party. Usually, there are three outcomes to this:
If it was no one’s fault . . .
This would probably be the best scenario. If the investigator determines that none of the parties involved were to blame for the accident, then you’ll only have to worry about the repairs on your own car. The same is true if you are in a one-car accident, such as if you back into a wall or hit a tree or lamppost.
If you’re at fault . . .
If you really think you’re not to blame, state your case to the investigator. Otherwise, you might as well own up to what happened. Accidents happen, and it’s not like you willfully crashed your car into the other person’s, right? Moreover, insisting that the accident was not at fault despite evidence that it is may only earn you the animosity of the investigator (after all, you’re challenging his or her expertise) and the other party (who will think you’re just trying to escape responsibility).
Try and settle the matter amicably. Don’t act harshly or try to cry or charm your way out of this. Feminine charms might work, especially if you think the guy who’s car you bumped is cute, but most people will aim to settle on the best price, so remember to be fair and show a little backbone when negotiating. Also, this is the time to use some of your haggling skills from all that tiangge shopping. Review your insurance policy to determine what can be covered. As a rule, be fair to the other party and don’t push your luck. Otherwise, you may find yourself talking to a stern-faced fiscal and looking at a lawsuit.
Try as much as possible to pay for the damages on the spot—and pay in cash. No one wants to wait for a check to clear, and certainly not everyone has a credit card swiping machine.
If you don’t have the money, especially if the accident requires expensive repairs, ask for more time. Most people will agree to meet you at a later date so you can settle the payment.
Remember to be patient with the other party. They got hassled, so they will be annoyed, and then some. Put yourself in their shoes and try not to get things out of hand. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar! A sympathetic smile and earnest attitude can go a long way.
If it’s not your fault . . .
Make sure you get the other party’s contact information. This is very important in case they have no insurance and would have to settle for paying you. Make sure they are aware that you intend to finish this matter as fast as possible. A firm attitude and a set jaw works. Let them know you mean business and they can’t weasel their way out of this one.
If they haggle or you don’t know the actual amount for repairs, kindly inform them that you will need to have the car repair shop estimate the damage first. If you have an idea for the amount, let them know and back it up by sharing your reasons for believing that the repairs will cost this much.
After taking your car to your insurance company’s accredited shop, call the other party and inform them of the estimate for the repairs to be made.
If you both have car insurance, exchange the contact information of your brokers as well. It will be less of a hassle to both of you if your insurance companies deal with the matter. Just make sure you follow up regularly.
Remember to get a copy of the police report! You may need to pay a fee, but it’s always good to have a copy in case your insurance company will need it.
As a last tip, try not to use the damaged car. If you can, leave it at the repair shop while you wait and settle the matter. You’ll never know when another accident might occur!
If you’re lucky, you can get away with just a scratch (or several) on your car. When this happens, the hassle of filing a police report and going to the precinct may be more trouble than it’s really worth. If it’s your fault, offer to pay for the damage. If it’s the other party’s fault, it’s good to have an idea how much the repairs will cost.
FN has an article about minor accidents which result in damage that’s more cosmetic than functional.
[Click here to read the article on fender-benders]
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