According to insurance data, the typical driver in the U.S. will be involved in a motor vehicle accident every 17.9 years. This means that over the course of a normal driving lifetime, you can expect to have 3 to 4 collisions. Since 25%-30% of all vehicle collisions result in injury (or death), chances are that in at least 1 of your accidents, someone will be hurt. Because of this likelihood, it is important to know what you should and should not do if you’re in a vehicle collision.
Do NOT Leave the Scene of the Accident
In most states, it is CRIME to leave the scene of an accident. The severity of the crime can range from a misdemeanor in the case of a minor accident involving no injuries up to a felony in the case of an accident involving injuries. Even if the accident is not your fault, you can still be charged with a criminal offense if you leave the scene before the police arrive to investigate and prepare a report.
Move to Safety
If your vehicle is drivable, you should try to get off of the roadway and out of traffic so as to reduce the danger to other drivers and to you and your passengers. If your vehicle is not drivable, you should turn on your emergency flashers and set out flares / road cones if available so as to warn other drivers of the hazard. If the vehicle is not drivable and if you and your occupants are able, you should try to get everyone out of the vehicle and well off of the roadway for safety purposes.
Check Everyone For Injuries
Make an immediate assessment of everyone in your vehicle to determine whether anyone is injured and if there’s any urgent or immediate need for assistance that you can provide or obtain. Once that is done, check the people in the other vehicle for the same.
Call 911 for Police and Any Medical Assistance Needed
It is important that you immediately contact 911 to report the accident and to let them know if anyone is in possible need of medical attention. Even if the accident is minor, it should be reported so that an accident report can be made. Failure to get an accident report could jeopardize your rights and hinder your ability to later prove what happened and who was at fault.
Be Polite and DO NOT Lose your Cool
Being involved in a vehicle collision can be very traumatic and upsetting – especially if it’s due to the fault of the other driver. It is a natural human tendency to have feelings of anxiety, anger and hostility in this situation. Nonetheless, you will be best served by maintaining your composure and treating everyone involved in a polite manner. Likewise you should be fully cooperative with the police who arrive on the scene.
Document the Facts and Circumstances
The more information and documentation that you’re able to gather immediately after the accident, the easier it will be in dealing with investigations, insurance claims, attorneys and lawsuits later. This would include:
- Exchanging contact and insurance information with the other driver
- Noting the name(s) and contact information of any witnesses
- Noting the name and badge number of the investigating officer
- Observing the other vehicle, make, model, license # and damage
- Noting the number of persons in the other vehicle (as well as yours)
- Noting any apparent injuries of all persons involved
- Documenting any statements made by others, including the police
- Recording the date, time, location, weather conditions and circumstances of how the accident occurred
- If possible, taking photographs of the accident scene and vehicles involved
- After the accident, you should maintain a file of all of this information and add to it with copies of any and all records, receipts, phone calls and communications related to the accident
DO NOT Admit That the Accident Was Your Fault (Even if it was)
While you should be fully cooperative with the police in telling them what happened, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you never admit that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was. It is not unusual in the stress of the moment to think that you caused the accident when there may be facts or circumstances – unknown to you at the time – which suggest otherwise. Likewise, you should not discuss the facts and circumstances of the accident with the other driver or with anyone else and should NEVER SIGN ANYTHING at the scene.
Remove Your Valuables
If your car is not drivable and is having to be towed from the scene, be sure and remove any valuables, etc. before the car is taken away.
Seek Medical Attention
Often injuries sustained in a vehicle crash don’t show up immediately or do not appear to be as serious as they really are at the time. It is not unusual for serious symptoms to show up hours or even a couple of days later. If there’s any question as to whether you are injured, it is important that you immediately seek medical treatment and at least get evaluated for any possible injuries.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Even if the accident is not your fault, it is IMPERATIVE that you notify your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. Disputes often arise as to who is at fault in causing an accident. Your insurance company will cover you against claims (wrongful or not) against you, but only if you have timely reported the accident to them.
Protect Your Rights
If you are involved in a vehicle accident that is the fault of someone else, you need to be aware of your rights to be compensated for any injuries, losses and damages that you sustained. For over 65 years, the attorneys at Lattof & Lattof, PC have been helping victims and families protect their rights and obtain fair compensation for abuse, suffering and injuries from motor vehicle accidents caused by the wrongful and negligent act of others. We will work hard to obtain justice for you and to help free you from the worry and stress of making claims, gathering records and dealing with insurance companies. Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION and we’ll be more than happy to discuss your case and advise you of your rights.