It is unfortunate most of us will experience an auto accident sometime during our lives. Even if you are not injured, if you are in an automobile accident there are certain things that you should and should not do. If you are involved in personal injury litigation as a result of an automobile accident you will benefit from consulting with a personal injury lawyer. First it is important that you stay at the scene of the accident. Should you become involved in an automobile accident that results in injury or considerable property damage, stay at the scene of the accident until the police arrive and tell you that you can leave. Err on the side of caution if you have any question about whether the damage caused by the accident is substantial. Never leave the scene of an accident as this can result in sanctions on your driver’s license and possibly even criminal charges since the law requires you to wait for the police.
Next, safeguard the injured. If somebody is injured, try to help if you are trained in administering first aid. Never move an injured person. Have someone call the police and report the accident. The person who contacts the police should not only tell the police that there are people injured but also, if possible, provide the number of injured persons. This will help ensure that sufficient emergency personnel respond to the scene. Turn on your flashers or use flares to warn oncoming traffic of the accident if you are in a roadway.
The next thing to do is obtain information. In any accident, you should obtain the following information about: The other driver; License plate number, insurance information, driver’s license number, name and address; Witnesses; telephone number, name and address; Police officers; Ask the police officer(s) who investigate the accident to provide you with a business card, with the incident number, so that you can obtain an accident report. Most officers will provide this information to you, even if you don’t ask; The location; You may wish to take notes about where the accident occurred, lighting, weather, traffic control devices, speed limits, and the road conditions; The accident: You may wish to take notes about how the accident occurred, such as the direction of travel of the vehicles involved in the accident, and what the cars were doing at the time of the collision.
Be cognizant of the fact that should litigation arise as a result of the automobile accident, you may be required to share your notes with a person who is suing you or that you are suing. Never admit fault. Do not admit liability even if you think you are at fault. There may be factors which you don’t know, which played a role in the accident, and it may turn out that the other driver was more at fault than you. Only make statements to the police at the accident scene and no one else. When you do speak to the police, only tell them the facts as to what happened. Let them come to their own conclusion based on the facts.
Get Medical Care (See a Doctor). If you don’t seek medical care and the accident occurred in a state where that has no fault insurance and covers medical treatment required as the result of an automobile accident, you may find later that you are unable to obtain the no fault benefits for injuries you sustained. Your insurance company may argue that your injuries are the result of something that happened after the accident. If you are injured in the accident and sue the other driver, you may similarly find that the other driver argues that your injuries were unrelated to the accident. Also, the adrenaline rush from the accident can mask your true condition. A physical examination will often reveal an injury that you do not feel yet. Tell the doctor if you experience any confusion, nausea, disorientation, tinnitus, dizziness, fluid or blood in your ears, headache, or loss of memory, or any other unusual physical or mental feeling. Many people suffer brain injuries as a result of hitting their head during the accident, and don’t realize that they are injured. It is best to be safe, by reporting your symptoms so that the doctor can rule out the possibility of a concussion or brain injury.
Basically this boils down to a few steps: 1) Stay at the scene; 2) Safeguard the injured; 3) Get in contact with the police; 4) Collect information; 5) Take notes; 6) Call or see your physician if you have any health concerns; 7) Report the accident to your insurance company; 8) Report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days if someone is injured or killed or if damage to either car is more than $750; 9) Make a claim with your insurance company and/or the other driver’s insurance company to pay for your injuries and losses; 10) Contact your insurance company and/or a lawyer if you are sued, and; 11) Contact a lawyer if you need legal advice or assistance in making a claim or in dealing with your insurance company. Although the laws vary from state to state these basic rules apply everywhere but are the basic guidelines of what to do if you are involved in an auto accident.