Few things in life are more frightening than being involved in a car accident. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway, there were over 32,000 fatal car accidents in the U.S. in 2015 alone.
Although car accidents are common, no one expects one to happen to them. When an accident occurs, it’s normal to feel confused and overwhelmed. If you’re involved in a automobile accident, extreme emotions can cause you to make decisions you wouldn’t ordinarily make. Knowing in advance what to do at the scene of an accident can help you make the right choices and avoid potentially hurting any future personal injury case.
Don’t Leave the Scene
One of the most important things to remember immediately following a car wreck is to remain at the scene. Although state laws vary, it is actually illegal to leave the scene of an accident in most states, especially if someone was injured or a certain amount of property damage occurred.
Whatever you do, don’t flee the scene. The last thing you need to worry about is being charged with a hit-and-run and dealing with possible criminal charges on top of your injuries.
Stay Put If You Are Injured
It goes without saying that your health and safety should be your top priority. If your injuries are too severe for you to safely move your body, you should wait for help to arrive. However, if you’re capable of moving without further injuring yourself, it’s usually best to move out of the road or the path of any oncoming traffic. Unless the police instruct you otherwise, leave your car where it is — you should only move your body physically out of the road.
Contact the Police
You should also notify the police or local authorities that an accident has occurred. This is an especially important step in cases where someone is hurt as a result of the crash. Once the police arrive, ask if they will file a report. In some cases, such as minor fender benders, the police may have a different procedure other than filing an official report. However, the majority of police departments will file a report even in cases involving relatively minor accidents.
Get Information from the Other Driver or Drivers
It’s also important to exchange information with the driver. If there are multiple motorists, make sure you get information from everyone involved in the accident. At a minimum, write down the name, address, driver’s license number, and insurance information for everyone at the scene.
As you gather information, it’s important to keep a cool head. It’s normal for emotions to run high after a crash, and you may even feel angry about the accident. However, anger is unlikely to make anything better, and it might even make things worse. If the other driver is confrontational or aggressive, remain in your vehicle until the police arrive. If your car is too damaged for you to sit inside it safely, let the police know that the other driver is being aggressive.
Don’t Admit Fault
While it’s okay to ask the other driver if they are okay, don’t discuss the details of the accident with anyone at the scene. You can give your basic contact information to the other motorist and to the police, but don’t talk about anything that could imply fault or negligent driving on your part. Leave it to the police to conduct an investigation and to determine who is to blame for the accident. The police and their investigators are trained to analyze car accidents, and they are in the best position to determine what factors led to the crash.
Speak to Witnesses
You should also make an effort to talk to anyone who witnessed the accident. If you can, get their name and contact information so you can obtain a statement from them about what they saw. This is an important step, as memories fade quickly over time. Your lawyer can also reach out to witnesses to record what they saw at the time of the accident.
If your injuries permit, you can use your phone to take photos of the scene. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Photographic evidence and video can be compelling evidence in a personal injury case. Take photos of the vehicles, your injuries, the road, and the weather conditions at the time of the accident. You should also continue taking photos of your injuries over the next days and weeks, as many types of injuries, including bruises, darken and get worse over time.
Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer
You should also speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible following an auto accident. You may even want to contact your lawyer at the scene, as long as your injuries allow it. Your lawyer can help calm you down, as well as walk you through the next steps following your accident. Never speak to the insurance company or adjuster. Let your lawyer handle these issues for you.
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