It has been estimated that approximately three million people are injured in automobile accidents every year. Thus, it likely that you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident at some time. While all licensed drivers are taught how to drive safely and obey the rules of the road, not all drivers know what to do if they are in a car accident. If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation, it is important that you follow a few basic guidelines to protect yourself and others.
A car accident can be a stressful and confusing experience. You may not be thinking clearly immediately after an accident and your emotions may be heightened. If possible, you should attempt to remain calm. Assuming you can do so, you should first check that you and everyone involved in the accident is safe. If anyone is seriously injured, attempt to comfort them while you await the police and first responders. It is generally a good idea to carry emergency flares, a set of cones or warning triangles in your car to notify other motorists of the accident and encourage passersby to contact the authorities.
Contact the Authorities
After assessing the damages and injuries sustained in the accident, call 911. Do not leave the scene. Await the police, first responders and emergency medical technicians. Use caution and common sense. If you are located in a remote area where and you don’t feel safe, it may be advisable to drive to a nearby police station to report the incident, rather than exiting your vehicle at the scene. In most other situations, you should stay at the accident scene and await the authorities. When law enforcement arrives, request that the officer file a police report, note the name and badge number of responding law officers. In addition, ask the officer how you can obtain the police report, and do so as soon as possible.
Document the Scene
Attempt to gather as much information at the scene of the accident as possible. Subject to applicable statutes of limitations, personal injury lawsuits may be filed months or even years after an accident takes place. Thus, it is important to attempt to collect as much information as you can at the accident scene, or else it could be lost forever. Obtain contact and insurance information of all drivers and motor vehicles involved. In addition, obtain the contact information of all vehicle passengers and eyewitnesses. Take photographs of the motor vehicle damage on your camera or smartphone, as well as the area where the accident occurred and any injuries. Note the road conditions, any defects that may have caused or contribute to accident, the weather, visibility and time of day.
After an accident, insurance representatives and claims adjusters may attempt to contact you to ask questions and obtain written or recorded statements. Many times, the insurance companies do not have your best interests in mind. Instead, they may be information gathering to attempt to limit their exposure in connection with a future claim or lawsuit. Thus, it may be advisable to consult a lawyer before you speak with an insurance company about your motor vehicle accident. Further, if you qualify for no-fault or personal injury protection (PIP) insurance under your own automobile insurance policy, there may be time limits in which you must notify your insurance company of the accident to obtain coverage. If you were driving in connection with your job or work at the time of the accident, there may be other considerations, including available workers’ compensation insurance coverage for injuries.
If you or someone you know has sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident, it is in your best interests to seek legal counsel. An experienced motor vehicle accident attorney can assess the facts of your case, explain your rights and help you seek the compensation you deserve.