There are six million car accidents in the US every year. Luckily, most of them just involve damage to property. But 1/3 of these accidents involve personal injuries, and 1/5 of car accidents are fatal.
If you are in a car accident, there are several vital things to do. Keeping these in mind will help to protect you and your interests. Below is more information.
You should not drive a way from the car accident scene unless the police arrive first. Leaving the scene can be especially damaging if there is serious property damage and/or injury. There are cases where a driver left the scene of the crash and was eventually charged with hit and run! Imagine having injuries in an accident caused by another driver, but you have difficulty winning a claim because you left the scene. Don’t let this happen – stay at the scene until the police arrive.
#2 Protect the Accident Scene
It is common for a car accident to cause another accident. You can prevent this from happening by putting out flares, keeping your car’s flashers on, etc. If it is dark, you should always have a flashlight in your glove box so that other drivers can see you. If your vehicle is left in traffic and you cannot move it, be sure to be a safe distance away from oncoming traffic. Your vehicle can be replaced; you cannot be.
#3 Call Law Enforcement
Even if damage is minor and there are no major injuries, it is always wise to call the police. You will probably need a police report to file the claim with your insurance company, even if it is just for property damage. The vehicles involved in the accident should generally be left where they are, unless they are seriously impeding traffic. Remember to stay at the scene until the police arrive and tell you that you can leave.
#4 Be Accurate
When law enforcement arrives, provide the police officer with a complete summary of what happened as far as you remember. If you do not know something for certain, do not guess. Do not give your opinion. Simply state all the facts of the accident as you know them. If you are asked if you are hurt and you are uncertain, just say you are not sure. You may find out later that you ARE hurt but did not realize it for several hours or days later.
#5 Take Photos
If you have a camera, or a cell phone with a camera, take photos of the cars in the accident if there is clear damage. If you have injuries that are visible, you should take pictures of them, too. If you cannot take photos immediately after the incident, do them as soon as possible before the vehicles are moved.
#6 Exchange Contact Information
The police officer will normally get this information. But if they do not come to the scene, you should get the name, address and phone number of everyone that was in the accident. Also get the contact information for all witnesses, as well as the insurance information for all drivers.
#7 Report the Crash
Call your insurance company as soon as you can. Also, most states require you to report an accident to the police if it involves injury and/or property damage above a certain dollar amount, such as $1000.
#8 Get Medical Attention
Remember that not all accident injuries are apparent after the crash. Many car accident victims report they did not know they had any injuries until the next day. If you delay seeking medical care, you could run into difficulty when you make an accident claim. Insurance companies will argue that your injuries had another cause.
#9 Safeguard Your Rights
After taking care of your health, the most important thing to do in a car accident is to at least consult with a qualified attorney. If the accident is anything more than a minor fender bender with no injuries, it usually is wise to run the case by a personal injury attorney, and you definitely should do so before you speak to the other driver’s insurance company.