I’ve Just Been In A Car Accident And Don’t Know What To Do
Let’s face it… car accidents happen and, inevitably, it will always come as a surprise! Most of us have experienced, either as a passenger or a driver, the all too often scenario of driving along a road or highway (or sitting at a red light) and, out of the blue, the sounds of a crash fill your ears and the violence of impact hits your body. As the shock of the wreck slowly subsides, you realize that this collision is not your fault, but what am I supposed to do now?
As outlined below, what you need to do after a wreck is often the same regardless of who is at fault. However, if you know you are not the guilty party (and normally that is clear pretty quickly after the event), you need to be vigilant about protecting your interests, particularly if you are a victim of a hit an run, or the other driver fails to report the wreck, or the other driver simply adopts the attitude of “deny, deny and deny.”
So, here are some tips to hopefully help you navigate the difficult time of dealing with a car wreck at the scene which is not your fault:
RIGHT AFTER THE WRECK
STAY CALM: Gather yourself! Take a moment to take a deep breath and calm your nerves as much as possible. The time is now to remain calm and think straight. If you are hurt, then your first priority is naturally to get medical attention. Check on your passengers and yourself and remember that you should not move an injured person unless there is an immediate threat of harm to them (such as a fire).
STAY SAFE: If you are impeding traffic or causing a safety concerns to other cars, then it’s advisable to move your car to the side of the road to avoid creating a traffic jam or potential harm to others. In this age of cell phones, however, if you can safely snap picture(s) of the accident scene BEFORE you move your car, it is probably in your interest to do so.
STAY NICE: If you are a victim of a car accident which is not your fault, it’s natural to be angry. Do your best to calm down, however, before confronting or speaking to anyone. It will do you no good to be angry and very well may hurt your case down the road!
DO NOT ADMIT FAULT: In the shock of a wreck, people literally loose their mind because they are traumatized by the event and just want it all to “be ok.” So many times, in an effort to be comforting, we make statements which can be twisted or turned around on us later. Just remember to watch what you say! It may sound innocent now, but it can take on a completely different meaning later, particularly if in a courtroom setting.
COLLECT THE RIGHT INFORMATION AT THE SCENE
If the other driver is at fault, they should report the incident to their insurance company. Does this always happen? Not really and you can’t assume that it will. So it is up to you to gather the necessary information BEFORE you leave the scene of the wreck. Concentrate on collecting the following information:
- FULL name of other driver;
- Telephone number;
- Insurance Company (be sure to get the policy number)
- FULL names of any witnesses (and their contact information);
- Photograph the scene;
Photograph the cars involved.
It’s important to try to answer the big questions: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE & HOW! Have you hear of the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, it’s true. Take plenty of photographs and be sure to capture vehicle information such as make, model, color, VIN, and license plate information if at all possible. Ultimately, the idea is to gather the evidence you need to back up your claim as to the cause of the accident and, just as importantly, who caused it.
CONSIDER USING A MOBILE APP
You may want to see if your insurance company has a mobile APP that will assist you in this fact gathering mission. Most of the reputable insurance carriers have these types of “accident checklist” APPS for cell phones (which are very helpful in guiding you as to how to best gather information so you can make a claim). The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ also has a great (and free) smartphone APP called WreckCheck. It does a great job in helping you collect the right information.
THINK ABOUT CALLING THE POLICE
The job of law enforcement is to gather and record facts and, when appropriate, issue criminal/traffic citations. In short, the police officer is supposed to document the details of the wreck by and through the use of a standard written traffic report (which captures details that you would have never thought to record). So, generally speaking, if you are not at fault, or if there are injuries involved, or visible damage to the cars involved, it is probably wise to call in the police. A simple dialing of 911 on the cell phone will do it.
WE CAN HELP
If you have been injured in a car wreck, we can help! At Jackel & Phillips, we are experienced attorneys who can help you make informed decisions about your legal options. Get started today by calling us for a free consultation.