Papers, please: How to handle a car wreck

Ivy says:

Last night Mr. Ivy was in a car accident. Don’t worry, dear readers, he wasn’t hurt and our car wasn’t hurt very badly either. He was stopped at a stoplight and a gentleman driving a trailer with big lawnmowers on it turned left right behind him and clipped the back end of Mr. Ivy’s not-so-shiny-anymore-red-convertible. Well, things happen and it wasn’t a big deal. The guy who hit Mr. Ivy was very nice and Mr. Ivy was very nice and the police officer who showed up to take the report was very nice- if you had to get in a car accident, Mr. Ivy said, this was the best possibly way to do so.

However, it was amusing to Mr. Ivy that he and the other gentleman both had to dig through piles and piles of expired paperwork to find the current paperwork. And Mr. Ivy never did find his- I ended up running a copy up to him. It was lucky that he was close enough to home for this to be an option. This is why it’s important to keep your paperwork in your car organized. Insurance companies vary, but I only receive new cards twice a year. This is cool because it’s not time consuming, but a pain because it’s easy to forget about.

In my car I keep an envelope in the glove compartment with the insurance and registration papers, nothing else. All other paperwork like the maintenance records is kept in a separate envelope. This way it’s not hard to find the paperwork I need. When changing out that paperwork, I immediately put the expired paperwork in my purse to bring inside and shred, since it has personal information on it.

Now you’re all set in case you’re in a car accident or are pulled over. If you’re in a car accident, what should you do? Here are some steps: (This advice applies for minor fender benders only. In serious car accidents, call 911 immediately.)

  • Check to make sure you and your passengers are okay.
  • Move your car to the side of the road, unless you are in a state that requires you to leave the scene of the accident intact until the police can get there, or unless your car isn’t drivable.
  • Call the police. Many metro areas have specific numbers to call for fender bender type accidents. If you don’t have the local number, call 1-800-FREE-411 to get the non-emergency number.
  • Get the names and phone numbers of all people involved in the accident. Don’t forget to include witnesses if there is some doubt as to who caused the accident.
  • If you have a camera with you, take pictures. (Don’t forget, many cell phones now have cameras on them. Mr. Ivy remembered this and took pictures. I totally would have forgotten that, myself.)
  • Exchange insurance information with the other driver.
  • Don’t admit fault, even if it’s your fault. But be nice, no matter who is at fault.
  • Find out from the police what you need to do next. In Tennessee, both Mr. Ivy and the driver of the trailer have to send in paperwork from our insurance companies letting the state know that we both had insurance at the time of the accident. If we don’t get that paperwork sent in within 20 days of the accident, Mr. Ivy or the other driver could have their license suspended. Yikes!

Hopefully this is advice you’ll never have to use- but you’ll be glad to know it if it does happen to you.


  1. pinetrees10 on June 4, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Just a little to add about what number to call for directory assistance/information: When it comes to free directory assistance, you have LOTS of choices. They differ in some important ways, so try them all out and see which one(s) you prefer – you just may end up with more than one in your cell phone. You also may want to try them all every so often just to see what’s new! Grin!

    I prefer the ones that have operators to help when the automation doesn’t recognize me, that get me ACCURATE information fast, and that also don’t restrict me to only business searches – sometimes I need to find people, too!

    1-800-YellowPages (800-935-5697)
    1-800-2ChaCha (800-224-2242)
    1-800-411-SAVE (800-411-7283)
    1-800-555-Tell (800-555-8355)
    1-800-Call-411 (800-225-5411)
    1-800-Call-Dex (800-225-5339)
    1-800-Free-411 (800-373-3411)
    1-800-Goog-411 (800-466-4411)
    1-800-Info-Fast (800-463-6327)
    1-800-The-Info (800-843-4636)

  2. Carye on April 30, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Glad to see that Mr. Ivy was not hurt during this minor incident. Wishing your car a speedy recovery. Excellent advice doled out here. I do read often. I too get new insurance cards/info twice a year and I’m forever forgetting to change out the new card with the one that exists within the deep dark depths of my so-called wallet. With what little bit of my memory and mind slowly slipping and oozing out of that thing we call a brain, if I don’t do things right away, they are forever lost in what could only be called “it used to be Carye’s head’. I have to do it immediately…right now…write it down!….or I forget forever. I’m printing this little tidbit out and sticking it to my bathroom door. It’s the door I seem to visit most often as of late. Maybe I’ll remember to read it too!

  3. Pam on April 29, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    OH OH OH I am soooo excited I know something about this. Check and see if the driver of the truck that hit him had a D.O.T. number. In my state a truck pulling a trailer (depending on the weight) must be registered and have a DOT registration. This is very serious. My husband is a fleet compliance consultant and walks people thru the registration process, if you are required to have a DOT number and don’t……there are serious fines involved. Pam, South Bend