Here in the USA, where the vast majority of citizens in licensing range have vehicles, we can expect to be involved in an accident at some point during our driving lives. This is, for better or worse, a pretty normal part of being a driving individual, and can for the most part be handled without too many serious ramifications. After all, though the rates for dangerous and even tragic accidents are high, many accidents and collisions are “fender benders” or ones whose damage is relatively small-scale. What’s more, thanks to consumer advocacy and advances in technology, our cars are now safer than ever, and are designed to protect us in the types of accidents which may have been much more dangerous in the past.

Another component of modern safe driving is auto insurance–which, of course, is a necessity for being on the road in the first place. In the likely case of some kind of accident befalling us, we depend on our insurers to provide just compensation and make the process of getting back on the road as quick and painless as possible. When this does not happen, we have recourse through the law–it is what makes personal injury attorneys an indispensable part of the equation–but when insurance works properly and we follow the correct procedure, things can go more smoothly.

The first step in this procedure is to carry our proof of insurance with us at all times, and to call insurers the moment an accident or injury occurs (when it is safe to do so; if police or emergency services are involved, they should certainly be called first). Reporting an accident is an important way to establish what actually happened from someone with firsthand knowledge, so that there need not be extensive detective work later. If possible, take photographs of the damage to aid in reconstructing what actually happened. Be sure to be totally honest and forthright about the incident, since it will have a direct effect on what the results of your coverage will be, and remember that your insurers work for you; no matter what has happened, you have paid in, month after month, for the right to be taken care of in the unfortunate case of an accident.

Still, be aware that insurance is a business, and that it may be in an auto insurer’s best interest to pay you what you may think you deserve. With that in mind, as the process moves forward and appraisals and estimates enter the picture, remember that you do not have to automatically accept the numbers given to you by your insurer. You do not have to sign waivers or releases, or accept “final payments,” until you’re ready to do so–which may entail seeking legal advice and getting a “second opinion” on what you’re entitled to. Ultimately, you need to be confident that you are getting the deal you deserve from your insurer.

The fact is, accidents are a natural part of being on the road. As drivers we enter into agreements–whether formal or informal, explicit or unspoken–with insurers, civic services, and with our other drivers, all in the hopes of making automobile travel as safe and responsible as it can be. If and when accidents happen, we deserve to have our promises kept, and if we remain aware of our rights and responsibilities, we can be sure that that’s what will happen.