Published on: January 24th, 2019
Because accidents can happen, no matter how careful you a driver you are, here is some straight forward advice that every car accident victim needs to take, from PageLaw.com’s team of highly experienced personal injury lawyers who have helped hundreds of people successfully navigate the legal issues caused by a vehicle accident.
1) Immediately after the accident
- Stay at the scene. Stop your vehicle as soon as you can do so safely. It’s a serious offence not to stop – even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
- Pull over to safety. If it’s possible pull your vehicle off the road to a safe place. If other cars are able to they should also be moved to the side of the road.
- Turn off your car. Be sure that every vehicle involved in the accident has been turned off. This will help to reduce any potential vehicle fire risks.
- Take stock. Your adrenaline is likely pumping. Take a minute to pull yourself together after the shock of the accident. Calming down will help to get your thoughts together.
- Check for injuries. Injuries are your first concern on yourself, passengers and then anyone else involved in the accident. Even if there are only minor injuries, make a note, as people may try to claim later on.
- Don’t move if you’re injured. Don’t move yourself or anyone else if you suspect a spinal or head injury unless you’re in immediate danger. Wait for the ambulance or paramedics to arrive to stabilize anyone who is injured. Moving them can cause serious injury complications and even paralysis or death in extreme cases so let the professionals do their job.
- Call emergency services. If anyone is injured, if the road is blocked, if you suspect the accident has been caused through drugs or drinking, or if property has been damaged, it’s best to call 9-1-1 immediately and ask for emergency services to come to the scene. It’s best to report even minor accidents to the police so that you have a legal incident recorded and in some states it’s actually required. A police report must be filed if any personal injury has occurred or if the damages to either vehicle exceed a certain amount, which is different state to state. However, it’s usually anywhere from $200-$500.
2) Safety tips
- Make the accident site visible. Make sure hazard lights are switch on in all cars and if anyone has hazard road signs then put them in the road ahead of the accident scene. This will help to prevent further accidents.
- Stay off the road. Sometimes it’s hard to think clearly after an accident but you need to be sure everyone stays well away from traffic on the road. You can remove big objects from the road to make it safer for everyone as long as you can do it safely.
- Check for Fuel & Hazardous material leaks. Check for fuel leaks as it’s a fire risk. If there is a commercial vehicle involved avoid any hazardous material, gasses or liquid that may have spilled. If there is any indication of a leak then do your best to move everyone away to a safe distance as you wait for emergency support.
- No Smoking. Ensure nobody is smoking at the scene if there is a fuel or hazardous material leak as this can cause fires.
3) Collect data
Information is king – memory is a tricky thing so you want to collect as much information as you can while you’re still on the scene of the accident. The information you collect can help establish the circumstances around the accident and ultimately who is to blame.
- Other drivers’ data:
– Full name and address.
– Insurance details – take a picture of their card.
– Driving license numbers.
– Mobile or home / work phone number.
– If it’s a commercial vehicle, make a note of the company details.
– Check if the driver is the registered owner of the vehicle and if not, get the owner’s details.
- The time and date of the accident.
- Other passenger data: Remember to check for passengers in other vehicles, and make a note of details such as their age too.
- Other Vehicle data: Get the Registration number and model of the vehicles involved.
- The driving conditions. Is it raining, is there slush or ice on the road?
- Missing traffic signs. Are there any covered up or missing road signs?
- Damaged road? Is any part of the road damaged or in poor repair?
- Take pictures. A picture paints a thousand words so don’t hesitate to take photographs of the accident area from different angles. Photograph any damage to your car and to other vehicles involved. If there is any property damaged other than belonging to those vehicles in the accident, take pictures of the damage there, too. All of this helps to establish what happened at the scene and can help prevent bogus claims that are often made to ‘take advantage’ of an accident.
- Make a sketch of the scene. Try to make a rough sketch of the scene, marking where vehicles are and where the accident took place.
- Look for video of the accident. Do you have a dash cam? Are there any surveillance cameras around?
- Witnesses. If there are witnesses, make a note of their names and numbers if they are willing to be witnesses for you.
- If you’re the only vehicle involved. If you’ve damaged property or another vehicle then leave your details at the scene. If you don’t and you are found out later (via CCTV or a witness) it can have very serious legal consequences. Honesty is the best policy.
- Never admit liability. You’ve just been in an accident and you may not be thinking clearly. Keep to the facts and do not commit to anything. People often ask you how the accident happened or try to get you to admit responsibility. Never apologise or admit responsibility. In certain cases, admitting liability can invalidate your insurance. Only discuss the accident details with emergency services and your insurance or legal advisors in order to help limit liability.
4) Dealing with difficult people
- If someone refuses to cooperate. If someone won’t exchange insurance details take as many details as you can. For example, the license plate and description of the car as well as a description of the driver. Take a picture if you can. Then call the police and report the accident right away.
- Hit and run. Take as much detail about the other vehicle as you can, including pictures. Then look for witnesses and ask if they will stay to give their account of the accident to the police.
- Uninsured driver. If the other driver is uninsured the goal is still to get as much information about the driver and the vehicle as possible. Your insurance policy may include uninsured drivers and if handled correctly you may still get compensation.
- Take your personal belongings. If your vehicle is badly damaged and can’t be driven, remember to remove your personal belongings. Only do this if it’s safe to do enter the vehicle. If it’s not then leave them. No item is worth the risk.
- Get a medical check-up. If you’ve been involved in a bad accident, it’s smart to get a medical check-up to be sure you’re not more seriously hurt than you realize. Adrenaline from the accident can often mask issues that will show up later. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Try to be as complete and accurate as possible when describing your injuries, symptoms, and pain to emergency personnel.
- Call your insurance company. Once you’re safe and ready to you will need to report the car accident to your insurance company. Even if there doesn’t seem to be damage you need to report it to protect yourself. You may develop medical symptoms caused by an injury from the accident later on. You can also discover further vehicle damage after the event, so just be smart and make that call.
- Tell the truth. It’s against the law to lie to your insurance company. Answer their questions truthfully and provide an honest account of the incident. However, don’t try to guess details that you don’t know. Stick to the facts and nothing more.
- Report your accident to the DMV: Some states require that all accidents be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Again, it varies state to state and the reporting process can be a little tricky but we’re happy to help you with that.
- Seek experienced legal council. It’s important to understand that in car and truck accident cases, the applicable statute of limitation deadline is in play, and time is of the essence. Never delay in seeking legal representation.
You’re not in this alone. After you’ve been in an accident everything can feel overwhelming but you don’t have to do any of this alone. We have decades of experience dealing with all the details involved with accidents. The sooner you reach out to us the faster we can step in to handle all of these details for you. So, if you have sustained injuries in a car or truck accident, you may be entitled to a monetary recovery. Page Law Firm will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and even take your case to trial if necessary.