What to Do After an Automobile Accident
Authored By: Legal Services Alabama
When do I have to report an accident? How do I report? How do I get a copy of the accident report? Who else do I have to call? What happens if the accident was my fault? This document answers these questions and more.
What should I do when I'm in an automobile accident?
- First, make sure everyone is all right.
- Don't say it was your fault. Your insurance company may not pay if you do.
- Call the police.
- Tell the officer who investigates what happened.
When do I have to report an accident?
- If anyone is killed or hurt in the accident, or
- If there is more than $250 in damage
How do I report?
- Send an accident report (Form SR-13) to the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
- Do it within 30 days after the accident.
- You can get the form from the local police, the sheriff or the local state trooper's office.
- You can also get the form online by clicking on the following link: Form SR-13.
- To help you fill in the form, get a copy of the investigating officer's accident report.
How do I get a copy of the accident report?
- For a fee, you can get a copy from the office that investigated your accident, or
- You can get the report by printing and filling out the form at this link: Crash Report Request
Mail your completed form and a $15 money order (not a check) to:
Department of Public Safety
P.O. Box 1471
Montgomery, Alabama 36102-1471
- Be sure to include the other driver's full name, driver's license number (if you get it), the date of the accident and the county where the accident happened.
Who else do I have to call?
Report the accident to your insurance company right away.
What happens if the accident was the other driver's fault?
- If you have collision coverage, your insurance company usually pays (up to policy limits) for your repairs. If you have personal injury or uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company usually pays (up to policy limits) for your medical expenses.
- If your insurance company pays, it will try to collect from the other driver. Do what your insurance agent tells you.
- If the other driver has insurance, that insurance company may agree you were not at fault. If so, it will pay for your repairs or pay back your insurance company.
If the other driver has no insurance, and your insurance company does not pay for all your losses, you have to try and get the other driver to pay.
- If you had major damage or got hurt, you may want to call a private lawyer. Many private lawyers will represent you on a "contingent fee" basis if they believe the other driver caused the accident. This means the lawyer would keep a large part of any money you get, but would get no fee if you do not win. Legal Services cannot represent you on such a fee-generating case.
- If your damages are small, you may be able to work out a deal with the other driver or his insurance company.
If you can't agree, and the other driver was not insured, you can write to the Department of Public Safety. Ask them to suspend the other driver's license and vehicle registration. Send this request to:
Alabama Department of Public Safety
Safety Responsibility Unit
P.O. Box 1471
Montgomery, Alabama 36102-1471
This might get the other driver to settle.
- If you cannot settle, you can file a suit in Small Claims Court, by yourself without a lawyer, for up to $3,000. You must file within two years of the date of the accident.
What happens if the accident was my fault?
- Your insurance company should pay (within policy limits) for any damage you caused.
- Your insurance company should pay for a lawyer for you if you are sued.
- Avoid making statements to the other driver or his insurance company.
- Only agree to a settlement if you think the amount of damages is right, and you are sure you can afford the monthly payments.
- See a lawyer right away if you get a notice that your driver's license is being suspended, or if you get court papers saying you are being sued.
- If you cannot afford to pay a lawyer, call your local Legal Services office to see if they can help you.
- If you have questions about an offer by the other driver, call a lawyer for advice.
What if the officer says I was at fault?
- A Court will probably not give this opinion much weight.
- However, the Alabama Department of Public Safety will usually expect that a Court would decide against you. If you don't have insurance and you don't pay, it will use the Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility Act against you.
- The Department will suspend your driver's license and vehicle registration.
- It sends a written notice at your last known address. The notice gives you 15 days to ask in writing for a pre-suspension hearing.
- If you get this notice, call a lawyer right away.
- If you can't afford a lawyer, call your local Legal Services office to see if they can help you.
- You may be able to save your driver's license and your registration.
Alabama state law says you need liability insurance for all registered vehicles. (View the text of Alabama's Mandatory Liability Insurance Act.) You MUST keep proof of current liability insurance AND your current vehicle registration (tag receipt) in your car at ALL times.
For more about motor vehicle accidents, driver's licenses, driving information and safety issues, visit the website of the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
Reviewed September 2008
AlabamaLegalHelp.org offers legal information, not legal advice. We try hard to make sure this website accurately explains your rights and options. However, the site does not apply the law to your personal facts. For this sort of legal advice, you should call a lawyer. To apply for free legal services in Alabama, call the Legal Services Alabama office that is closest to where you live OR call toll-free 1-866-456-4995. You can also apply online at intake.alsp.org.