A few seconds is all it can take to change your life forever. A vehicle collision can cause serious injury, significant stress, undue expenses, and unwanted time off work. The responsibility for the collision and the extent of your injuries will need to be determined in order to arrive at whether you have a personal injury case for compensation. In order to ensure that your legal interests are protected, there are certain steps you should take after being in a car accident.
1. Safety first
If possible, pull your vehicle over to the side or onto the shoulder of the road so that you are out of harm’s way and to not interfere with traffic. If possible, turn on your flashing hazard lights or put out road flares to alert other drivers of the accident, especially if the accident occurred at night or during inclement weather.
Immediately after the collision, observe any injuries that may have been sustained. Do not move yourself or anyone experiencing neck or back pain – instead, call for help. Check to see if any other drivers or passengers are injured. Phone 911 or ask someone to phone for you if an ambulance is needed.
2. Call the police
Dispatching police to the accident scene will help to ensure the safety of everyone involved. The police can direct traffic around the accident if necessary and will investigate the incident, decide whether to lay charges, and prepare a report that documents the facts (e.g., weather, road conditions, location, time of day) and witness statements.
Calling the police is advised but is not always required. There are a few conditions under which you must contact the police and file a report:
- There is a physical injury.
- Property damage is greater than or equal to $2,000.
- The collision was a hit-and-run.
3. Exchange information
You have a responsibility to share insurance information with the other driver(s). Provide and obtain:
- Name, address, and phone number of anyone involved, as well as the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicles.
- Driver’s license number for all drivers involved.
- License plate number or VIN for the vehicles involved.
- Registration information for vehicles involved.
- Insurance information for vehicles involved, including insurance company and policy number.
If you exchange cell phone numbers, call the other driver while at the scene to ensure that the phone number you have is correct.
In situations where you collide with an unattended vehicle, the driver must stop and either:
- Locate and notify the driver or owner of the unattended vehicle and obtain the same information we previously mentioned.
- Leave a written notice providing the information referred to above for the driver of the vehicle to find and contact you.
Where you cannot locate the other driver or owner and cannot leave the notice required, the driver must report the details of the collision as soon as possible to the police.
4. Don’t incriminate yourself or otherwise harm your case
There are some things you should not do after a car accident. For example,
- Don’t move an injured person. Wait for trained paramedics to arrive at the scene.
- Don’t admit fault or blame or cast blame on the other driver(s).
- Don’t discuss the accident and limit what you say. Your statements at the scene may be used against you later.
- Don’t discuss payment with another driver or accept an offer or sign anything.
5. Make your own record
You should not rely on the police to record all relevant information. By taking your own notes as soon as possible after the event, you will have a record to refer back to later in the process. If charges are laid and the accused disputes the charges, you may not be able to obtain a copy of the police report until the matter has been dealt with in court, so your own notes may be your only reference. Here are some things you should make note of:
- The date, time, and location of the collision, and what was said and by whom.
- The condition of the drivers and passengers (if any) and their names and the injuries that each injured person sustained, including yours.
- The extent of damage to the vehicles and your description of what you saw happen before, during, and after the accident.
Photos make it easy to document the scene and are objective evidence for your case. Take pictures of:
- The damage to both vehicles from different angles and distances.
- The location of the accident, including nearby traffic signs.
- The road conditions (e.g., dry or wet roads, paved roads or gravel, any debris, or potholes).
- Whether skid marks occurred.
- Weather conditions and driving visibility (e.g., rain, snow, sleet, fog, clouds, sunshine).
- Visible injuries to all parties involved and where you feel pain.
- Driver’s license and insurance policy of the other driver(s).
6. Visit your doctor
Visit your family doctor as soon as possible after the event to document any injuries, as this can be very important for your recovery and for your case. Briefly explain all of your injuries and see that your doctor records each item. Car accidents do not necessarily leave visible scars and the pain is not always felt immediately but it can show up later.
7. Hire a personal injury lawyer if you sustained injuries
A lawyer can assess your case and help you to access the benefits that you are entitled to.
Your lawyer can report the accident to the insurance company on your behalf. This way, you will not give information that the insurance company can later use against you. Having your lawyer contact them also makes it clear to the adjuster that you have retained counsel, so they should contact your lawyer to communicate with you.
Hiring an experienced firm like Stack & Associates gives you the best chance of obtaining the compensation that you’re entitled to. We have 40 years of experience and our firm is specialized in personal injury claims. Let us work for you and we’ll let you focus on your recovery.