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What information to provide — and not provide — after a car crash

John Egan

Many Americans are in the dark about what information to share — or not share — following a car crash, a new survey shows. Knowing what to tell another driver could prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.

“You need only provide your name and vehicle insurance information, which should include the name and phone number of your insurance provider. Sharing personal information such as your address and phone number may put your privacy and identity at risk,” the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warns.

The question of “What information should I share?” pops up often, as more than 5 million wrecks occur every year in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Findings of a July 2012 survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners include:

• 38 percent of those questioned thought they should share their driver’s license numbers, and one in six would let another driver photograph their licenses as a convenient way to exchange information. However, your driver’s license information could be used by an identity thief, the association points out.

• 25 percent of consumers would share their home addresses with other drivers. However, sharing this information gives identity thieves the location of your mail or garbage, where crooks often look for personal or financial information, the association says.

• 29 percent of drivers thought they were required to share their personal phone numbers with other drivers. In fact, sharing personal phone numbers is not necessary, according to the association.

• Close to 20 percent of people thought the only reason to call the police after an accident was if someone was injured. However, filing a police report can help smooth the process of filing a car insurance claim, the association says.

A new app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners outlines what a driver should do immediately after a car crash and instructs a user on how to create an accident report. Furthermore, the WreckCheck app lets a user take photos and capture information for filing a car insurance claim. In addition, the free app — available for iPhone and Android users — lets someone email an accident report to himself and his insurance agent.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, president of the insurance commissioners group, says in a news release: “Understanding what information to share, and with whom, will help keep you safe after an accident and decrease some of the challenges of filing a claim later on.”

State Farm offers these tips for what to do after a car crash:

·         Take a deep breath and stay calm.
·         Check for injuries; call an ambulance if needed.
·         If the accident is minor, move the involved cars to a safe place, away from traffic.
·         Turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights and use cones, warning triangles or flares for safety.
·         Call the police, even if the wreck is minor.
·         Notify your insurance agent immediately.
·         Do not sign any document unless it’s for the police or your insurance company.
·         Take notes about the crash, including damage to the cars involved and information about witnesses.
·         Be polite, but don’t tell anyone the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.
·         Mention only the facts; limit your discussion of the crash to the police and your insurance company.

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