Accident Guide in Iowa
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Even if you consider yourself to be a very careful driver, you may still become involved in an accident at some point. Therefore, it's extremely important to have a clear understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding motor vehicle accidents.
At the Scene of the Accident
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving, you must stop as close to the scene as possible without causing additional disruption. Provide the other driver with your:
- Vehicle registration number
If someone has been injured in the accident, you should call for an ambulance immediately. You'll also need to report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency.
Filing an Accident Report
According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, drivers are required to file a written report within 72 hours of a motor vehicle accident resulting in bodily injury or property damage of over $1,500. These forms are available from local law enforcement officers.
If the law enforcement officer who investigates the accident files a report, however, you do not need to submit your own documentation of the accident.
Protecting Your Driving Privileges
Drivers who are involved in accidents causing bodily injury or property damage must provide proof of financial responsibility in order to protect their driving privileges. If you don't have liability insurance, this can be accomplished in several different ways:
- You can agree to pay for all expenses associated with the accident on an installment plan.
- You can post a cashier's check, certified check, surety bond, or money order with the Office of Driver Services. If you have not been sued within one year after the accident, the money will be returned to you.
- If you can provide documentation showing that you have paid for all injuries and property damages, the Office of Driver Services will consider the financial responsibility requirement fulfilled.
- The financial responsibility requirement will be waived if you can get a written release signed by the injured party or the person whose property was damaged in the accident.
- The financial responsibility requirement will be waived if you can get a court decision that relieves you of all liability and civil action.
If you can't show acceptable proof of financial responsibility following your accident, the Iowa Department of Transportation will suspend your driving privileges for up to one year.
Contrary to popular belief, financial responsibility requirements apply to both the driver and the owner of the motor vehicle. If you give a friend or family member permission to use your vehicle and he or she is involved in an accident, you'll need to provide proof of financial responsibility to protect your privileges.
Regardless of the severity of your accident, it's still a good idea to report the event to your insurance company. Even if the accident seems minor at the time, additional injuries or damages may be uncovered at a later date. Additionally, state laws protect you from having your insurance rates raised unless the accident is determined to be your fault.
If you happen to have a digital camera or camera phone with you at the time of the accident, snap a few pictures of the scene to show your insurance company. It's also smart to sketch a quick diagram of vehicle positions before and after the accident to help you remember the particulars when you're arranging for a settlement.
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by another Iowa driver, you may be eligible for monetary compensation. It is highly recommended that you seek the services of an experienced personal injury attorney if the accident was caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Personal injury attorneys (lawyers who work on a contingency basis) can help you receive money to pay for your medical expenses and property repairs.