Bronson Page is a screenwriter, art director, gay rodeo dude and keeper of LovesickBilly.com. Recently, he was in a car accident on a Los Angeles freeway. This is what he learned…

I’m in the process of resolving my car accident, wherein a man hit me from behind on the 134 freeway, totaling my new car. Post-accident business is a complicated process. Here are 10 things that shouldn’t be missed.

1. At the scene, Sam, the CHP and I collected the other drivers’ insurance and drivers license information. Now that I think of it, it would have saved time for us to just take clear pictures of their insurance cards and drivers licenses – and even the cars – with the iPhone.

2. Since I was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Sam got the information from the CHP officer to get a copy of the police report. The officer has a work week to complete it.  We will be able to get it from the CHP substation as soon as it is ready. This will be helpful because any involved insurance companies request this document by mail.  They will tell you that it takes 2-6 weeks for them to get a copy. The CHP office says that it takes “15 working days” from the date of the accident (so, May 28th).  I got it exactly 15 working days after the accident.  The insurance company is still waiting for a reply to their letter.  Once you get the police report, expedite everything by faxing or sending a copy to your own, and the offending driver’s insurance company.

3. If you have to rent a car, book it on priceline.com and keep the receipts. Find out how much your insurance company will cover for a rental, eschew the Escalade and make the dollars last. You don’t know how long you’ll need to rent.

4. If another driver is at fault, call that driver’s insurance company and verify that they have reported the accident, have a policy in place, ask the limits to their policy, and notify them if you are incurring hospitalization costs for which they should expect to pay.

5. If possible it’s easier to have your car looked at by a body shop that is certified by your insurance company, so their reporting is fast and seamless.

6. If your car is totaled, verify whether or not you have the gap insurance they offered at the time of purchase. Never having had such an accident, I declined it at the time, which means that I’m now responsible for the difference between the market value of the car prior to the accident and what I owe on it.  In this market, the difference boils down to about $2K.  So much for saving a little money at the time of purchase. Note: must buy gap insurance henceforth.

7. Sign off on the cancellation of any extended warranty, which will give you a rebate that can help to offset the gap (from #6) you’d have to pay.  The dealership needs a copy of the Total Loss Statement, which shows the date of total loss and the mileage on the car at the time, so that the provider of the extended warranty can determine the amount of the rebate, which will come in the mail in 2-4 weeks.  If I don’t hire an attorney to sue, I can try and recoup the $2K gap in small claims court, when the police report has identified the at-fault driver.

8. Get yourself checked out thoroughly, especially if you’re not at fault. MRIs, specialists, psychological counseling, whatever it takes to make sure that you know the extent of your injuries.

9. Speaking of psychological counseling: get some. When I was hit, I actually thought, Wow, this is how I am going to die. I always wondered how, and this is it. Luckily it wasn’t, but since then, I experience a high level of anxiety in a car on a freeway, as driver or passenger.  Two days ago, driving to work, I made the mistake of not taking surface streets, and had a panic attack as I was stopped on the freeway, praying – literally – that the traffic wouldn’t hit me from behind again.

10. Learn from the experience. I give myself 15 minutes more to get where I’m going, than I did before.  I actually follow several car lengths behind the car in front of me.  I go the speed limit.  I notice that most drivers around me are, comparatively, driving like madmen, and I used to be one of them.  As they said in Driver’s Ed, “It’s a minute of your life, or your life in a minute.”

More about Bronson Page
Bronson Page is a screenwriter, art director, and rodeo enthusiast living in L.A. with his husband, Sam Page. His blog, LovesickBilly.com, is about sex, love, and relationships – as well as a window into his relationship and adventures with Sam. Currently, Bronson is putting together a deal to produce Damages for the screen and stage, a rock opera about his most painful childhood memories, told through 18 songs by Queen.

Photo credit: LovesickBilly.com.