Accident Guide in Hawaii

Accidents are an unavoidable part of the road experience. With the thousand upon thousands of cars populating the asphalt of every major city it is surprising that more accidents do not happen.

Luckily, most accidents are relatively minor. Plus, seatbelts, air bags, and general safety features make vehicles much safer.

What to Do if You Are in a Minor Accident

You are not required to report collisions involving no injuries and less than $3,000 worth of estimated damage to the police. However, unless it is just a minor fender bender it is almost impossible to determine the extent of repair cost in the intensity of an accident. Thus, in most cases a call to the authorities is in order.

But in cases where it is obvious that no one is injured and the amount of damage is minimal (i.e., small bomber dent or scratches), simply move the involved vehicles out of traffic. Then exchange all pertinent information with the other driver. Basically, this information includes each driver's name, phone number, and registration number.

What to Do if You Are in a Serious Accident

In cases that involve mandatory reporting, a driver must remain at the scene. Failure to do so will result in the commission of a felony. The repercussions of leaving an accident are serious and involve jail time, license revocation, and substantial monetary fines.

If possible, move the vehicles away from the flow of traffic. But do not risk further injury or damage to property or people to do so. Next, call the police. If there is an injury requiring immediate medical attention, call an ambulance (of course, you will handle this step along with calling the police). If an injured party is in a life-threatening situation (use your best judgment), aid them if possible.

If the vehicles involved in the accident are immovable, try to direct traffic as best as possible until the authorities arrive.

What to Exchange with the Other Driver

Most likely the police will deal with much of these details as they cull the report. However, if no injuries are present you can get the process started prior to the arrival of the police by exchanging basic information with the other driver. This information should include name, address, and registration number. If the driver claims an injury, he or she can ask for your driver's license number.

You can generally obtain the police report seven days after the accident from the county police department. You can also have the police department forward the accident report to the insurance company or the shop where your vehicle is being repaired.

Hitting an Unoccupied Vehicle

If you run into a parked vehicle, you have a responsibility to notify the owner in some fashion. The spirit of aloha would be seriously dented if you simply drove off.

Thus, if you damage another vehicle and the driver is nowhere in sight you have options.

First, try and locate the driver. If you are outside of a large store it is pretty easy to wander in and ask a manager to page the owner of such-and-such a car.

If this option fails, leave a note. The note should list your name, address, and telephone number. You should also detail what happened.

What About Insurance?

Hawaii is one of the few states left that has "no fault" insurance. It is a complex system that at times could leave you wondering how you ended up at fault in the no-fault system.

Also, after an accident one of the first things you need to do is contact your insurance company to let it know what happened.

Once the adjusters get involved a whole new level of complexity arises and you are left wondering whether you are protecting yourself from your actions or the actions of others. Still, many argue that the "no fault" system actually lowers exposure to much of the liability that results in higher judgments.

Ultimately it is best to give your policy a thorough reading; if you have any questions, consult with an attorney.

For more information on Hawaii's insurance requirements, rates, and carriers, visit the state's consumer information website.

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