You’ve just been in a car accident. What do you do? How do you handle the situation? These are just some of the questions people are confronted with after being in a motor vehicle accident. Here are some tips to consider if you find yourself involved in a car accident:
1. Stay at the Scene– Never leave the scene of an accident until a responding officer says it is okay to do so. If you leave the scene of an accident, especially one where injuries and/or property damages have occurred, you could be charged with a “hit and run” and face serious legal repercussions.
2. Ensure Safety of Everyone Involved- If you are physically able to do so, turn on your emergency flasher and then exit your vehicle and check to see if anyone else involved has been injured. If any injuries have been sustained, immediately call for medical help. If a person involved is unconscious or complaining of neck or back pain, do not move them or allow them to move until emergency responders have arrived. If you have no choice but to move an injured person, do so very slowly while supporting their back and neck.
3. Call the Police– Always report a motor vehicle accident to the police, no matter how small. The police will gather facts and document the accident so, if you don’t contact them and a legal action is taken in future, it could turn out to be your word against the other driver involved. It is also a good idea to obtain full names and badge numbers from all responding officers.
4. Exchange Information– Before leaving the scene of an accident, don’t forget to exchange names, telephone numbers, addresses, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information with the other driver(s) involved. If the other vehicle(s) involved is registered to someone besides the person who was driving, be sure to also write down the name and phone number of the vehicle’s owner.
5. Talk to Witnesses– It is important to note that any passengers involved are not considered to be a witness. Ask every witness what they saw and if they agree, obtain their full names and telephone numbers so your attorney or insurance agency can contact them down the road if need be. Don’t be pushy and never force a witness to speak with you if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. It may also be a good idea to ask the witness if they have ever seen similar accidents occur in the same place.
6. Take Pictures and Gather Details- Even though responding police officers will document certain aspects of the accident once they arrive, be sure to take your own pictures and jot down some important details because you can never have too much information. Take pictures from all angles of any damage that has been done to your vehicle and personal property as soon as possible. Make note of the time, date, and location the accident took place, weather conditions, and any other facts surrounding the accident you think may be important in the future.
7. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Agency- Be sure to inform your insurance agency that you have been involved in an accident as soon as possible. If you do plan on filing an insurance claim, your insurance company will conduct their own investigation on the accident. Be able to explain the facts surrounding the accident to your insurance agent in a clear and detailed manner. Do not lie to your insurance agent about any aspect of the accident, if you don’t remember a certain detail, simply tell them that you don’t remember. If your insurance company later finds out that you have not told them the truth, they could deny you coverage and you may also be facing legal repercussions.
8. Do Not Discuss the Accident– Never discuss the accident with the witnesses or other individuals involved. Doing so could result in a confrontation or could cause you to admit liability which could later harm your personal injury case. Never speak to anyone from the other driver’s insurance agency before contacting your attorney, any statement you give regarding the accident could be used against you in the future when trying to prove liability.
9. Keep Track of Medical Treatment– Keep a journal of all medical treatments you have received as a result of the accident. This journal should include names of all medical professionals you seek treatment from, dates of any appointments and future appointments, treatment procedures, medications received, and a record of any time you have had to miss work as a result. It is also a good idea to keep all medical reports and bills you receive because these documents will help provide your attorney with an accurate figure of your medical expenses.
10. Consult an Attorney– Especially if you have been injured or the damages are extensive, contact an attorney. Even if you aren’t sure that you need one or just have questions about your rights, it’s always best to be safe and consult an attorney. The longer you wait to obtain legal advice, the harder it can be to prove your case and in most instances, the statute of limitations for a motor vehicle accident is two years, meaning that you only have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim.