7 costly mistakes to avoid before and after a car accident

Getting in a car accident is not only stressful; it can be very expensive. A survey by Esurance found that even though two-thirds of respondents were not at fault for their collisions, they still experienced high out-of-pocket expenses for things like rental cars or repairs beyond insurance coverage. Did you know there are steps you can take before and after a car accident to cut down on costs? Eric Brandt, chief customer care advocate at Esurance shares the seven mistakes drivers are making:

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Choosing the wrong deductible 

A car insurance deductible is what you pay out of pocket for damages from a car accident before your insurance company begins to cover costs. Brandt says it’s important to choose the right deductible level in the event you have to use the insurance. 

“If you take a high deductible, you may save on your premium, but in the unlikely event you have to use your insurance because of a fender bender or a crash, that can be very costly,” he says. “So you want to pick the deductible that fits your budget.”

Ignoring risky driving habits

Do you text and drive? Do you eat while you’re behind the wheel? Even if another driver caused the collision, engaging in distracted driving could put you at risk of being liable. Esurance reports despite knowing the risks, one-third of survey respondents said they text and drive.

Need help staying safe on the road? Find out if your insurance company has an app or other technology to help you avoid the unexpected when you’re driving. Brandt says not only may you get a discount; you may also be able to access information that can help prevent a crash.

Not planning for extreme consequences

Most shoppers know that you can save money by bundling your automobile and homeowner’s insurance. Brandt says what most people don’t realize is that you can also potentially save on the deductible you picked for your home and car. 

“In the unlikely event that your home and your car are damaged at the same time because of the same thing; some insurance companies may charge you two deductibles,” he says. “That could be a big out-of-pocket expense. At Esurance, if you bundle your homeowners and automobile insurance and your home and your automobile are pelted by damaging hail for example; we’ll waive one of those deductibles. That’s a choice you make upfront that could save you later on.”

Another extreme consequence to consider? Esurance says many drivers are vulnerable to being sued if the other driver does not recover all damages, medical bills, or emotional distress through the normal claims process. Yet only 13 percent of drivers consider this possibility.

Not seeking the help of authorities and professionals

Brandt says it’s common for people to go through their own insurance company if they experience a minor accident with no injuries. People may exchange partial information with the other party involved in the accident and then leave the scene. He says without the police involved, there’s a chance you may not get all of the information you need to provide to your insurance company.

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“Making the police report is pretty important,” he says. “It’s important because it gets your side of the story down in a proper way that can be helpful for you. It’s not an aggressive thing. It’s not a thing people should feel self-conscious about. Even if it is a minor event, people should feel comfortable that making the report helps them and helps everyone involved to get the facts straight.” 

Failing to document accidents properly

That smartphone in your pocket is a powerful device.

“With just a few pictures, we can know where the incident happened, when and with whom,” says Brandt. “Then we can handle the customer’s claim and go to work collecting their insurance deductible back.”  

If you get in an accident, he says it’s important to take pictures of the damage to both cars, where the accident happened, the license plate of the other party, their driver’s license/number and proof of insurance.

“With all of this information, the insurance company can start working on the claim immediately,” Brandt says. “They can also start working for the customer to help them recover unexpected expenses through the party who is at fault for the accident.”

Saying sorry to the other driver

If you get in a car accident, you might be tempted to tell the other driver you are sorry, even if it’s not your fault. Don’t do it. Brandt says this could insinuate fault and make you liable for damages without proof.

“People are empathetic and human and they want to express sympathy for the mishap,” he says. “But it’s really not necessary for you to start confessing fault at the scene. Let the insurance company take care of the damages for you.”

Being underinsured or under-informed about coverage

The Esurance survey found that 16 percent of drivers are aware of gaps in their insurance, but choose to take the risk of driving without the extra coverage. Some examples of add-ons include coverage for property damage; as well as rental car reimbursement and medical and funeral services for you and your passengers.

“When you are out there looking for an insurance company, try to find that insurance company that will be your advocate, one that has tools and technology that works for you,” says Brandt. “Not just help you get the right price and pick the right products, but also avoid the possibility of a crash.”

Linda Bell joined FOX Business Network (FBN) in 2014 as an assignment editor. She is an award-winning writer of business and financial content.  You can follow her on Twitter @lindanbell