What information am I supposed to collect and give away after a car wreck?

Many new drivers of my generation were taught that, where automobile accidents are concerned, you keep your mouth shut, answering only what you were asked and not out and out admitting fault. We were also instructed to get as much information as we could from the other guy in involved, because if we didn’t we might somehow be stuck with post-accident repair or medical bills.

There used to be legitimate reasons for doing this, of course. Maybe you wanted to be sure the other driver wouldn’t change his story after the insurance companies were contacted. Maybe you thought the other driver might try to weasel out of any liability he may have had. Maybe you were afraid he’d be hard to track down without as much information as you could manage to gather.

The more thorough you attempted to be, the better. Typically, you’d collect the other driver’s license and tag numbers, their insurance information, their home address and telephone number. You might even chance to gather the information of any accident witnesses. Certainly you’d be just as forthcoming with all of your own information.

While this was standard a couple of decades ago, times have changed. Many people aren’t aware, however, that less information is needed now than it used to be. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), these days most of the information we used to trade so readily could put a driver at risk of identity theft!

No longer should you share personal information like your license number, home address or even your telephone number, the NAIC says. Typically you should only give the other driver you name and your insurance information, like the name and phone number of you provider.

Forty percent of people surveyed by NAIC said they felt that they had to give their driver’s license numbers. One in six would even be so generous as to let the other driver photograph their license as a quick method of information exchange between drivers! These days, your driver’s license number -second only to your social security number and date of birth– is the most common means of identity verification.

Twenty-five percent of NAIC survey participants said that they’d disclose their home addresses, which effectively lets a stranger know where you live. About a third think that they’re required to share personal phone numbers. When it’s ingrained in you to collect as much information as possible, it’s difficult to not succumb to this practice. You want to make sure, if the accident isn’t your fault, that your crash-related losses and expenses are covered.

“It’s very chaotic and intense after an accident and, as a result, most people have a tendency to give out more information than they should,” said Kevin M. McCarty, NAIC president and Florida insurance commissioner. “Certainly, staged accidents are a very common way to defraud consumers and insurance companies. You have to be careful by only sharing what information is vital to complete the accident report.”

This is especially true in a day and age where personal information is a valuable, tradable resource. Criminals are getting more creative with the ways that they gather personal data; what if an accident is staged for the sole purpose of doing so?

By the way, the NAIC says that 20% of those surveyed believe that you only call the police if someone is injured. This is inaccurate: You always call the police, no matter how minor an accident seems! A police report could aid you greatly with any insurance claims you have to file.

To help drivers who find themselves involved in an automobile accident, the NAIC has developed a mobile application called ‘WreckCheck’ that takes you step by step through what should be done immediately post-accident. The app suggests, for instance, that you take pictures of license plates and landmarks, as well as recording a quick description of what happened while the events are still fresh to you. It also allows you to e-mail an accident report to yourself and your insurance company. WreckCheck is available for both Android and iPhone smartphones. NAIC also has an accident checklist available to download, print, and stash in your glovebox in case of accident.

If you’re in need of an Atlanta accident attorney to assist you post-wreck, give our offices a call.

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