Automobile accidents are sudden, unexpected, and unwelcomed but there are things that you can do to minimize the stress and protect the interests of you and your passengers. Unfortunately, even the best and most cautious drivers are at risk of being involved in a car crash. With over six million crashes each year and one in three resulting in injury, it’s important to know what to do when the inevitable strikes.
The following is a list of the top 10 things you should do if you find yourself in a car wreck:
1. STOP, TURN ON YOUR FLASHERS, AND DON’T MOVE YOUR CAR
You should never leave the scene of car wreck, even if it’s a minor finder-bender. When insurance adjusters are reviewing evidence, one of the things they look at is the location of the vehicles when they came to a complete stop. Drivers are usually worried that their car is blocking traffic and quickly move it from the road. Moving your vehicle can be detrimental in determining fault. Instead, leave your vehicle where it comes to rest after the impact and turn on your flashers. Your flashers will warn other drivers that your vehicle has been disabled. Do not move your vehicle until the resting locations have been properly documented by the police or photos have been taken, because this is evidence that is often lost.
2. CHECK FOR INJURIES
Make sure you are not suffering some sort of disabling injury. If you can move, check your passengers for injuries in your vehicle first. Next, check the other vehicle(s) for any life threatening injuries.
3. CALL THE POLICE
You should always call the cops, even if the crash is minor. If there are no injuries, the cops may not respond. However, the call itself is evidence and can be obtained if necessary. Additionally, most accidents involve a collision with a stranger and the cops have the resources to make sure that the other driver is who she/he says she/he is and get the information that will be vital to pursuing recovery for your injuries and damages. The officer will make note of the vehicles resting location and likely tell the drivers to move the vehicles from traffic, if the vehicles do not require a tow service.
4. GET WITNESS INFORMATION
Having been in several accidents myself and having worked as an insurance adjuster for over 17 years, I know quite well how difficult witnesses can become after making sure everyone is okay. Witnesses usually do not want to wait around for the cops to arrive and then give a statement. Once you have identified any witnesses, encourage them to remain on scene and to provide their statement to the cops. There are a lot of auto accidents that turn into word vs. word cases because the physical evidence supports more than one version of the accident and no independent witnesses can be identified to break the tie. If a witness is not able to or not willing to stay at the scene, get the witness’s information (e.g., name, cell number, address, email address, etc.) and provide it to the responding officer. It is always best to have a witness listed in the police report, but the next best thing is to have the witness’s contact information available during the insurance companies’ investigation.
5. TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS
Most of us do not leave home without a cell phone, especially if we will be driving. Most cell phones have built-in cameras. Take photos, and lots of them. These photos can come in handy when the other driver changes his or her story in the days following the crash. Real-time photos may be the truth teller you need to make a full recovery from the insurance company. If you are not hurt and able to take photos of the vehicles’ resting locations, it is important that you do so and then move your vehicle out of the road. However, be careful when taking photographs. Be aware of traffic and your soundings in general. Do not attempt to take a photo that places you or anyone else in danger. If you are able to take photos from a distance in addition to closer shots, you will be better prepared when dealing with the insurance company. After the vehicles have been moved from the roadway, you should then take photos of both vehicles from all sides. This will help in identifying accident related damage, prior unrelated damage, and capture the license plate number for identification purposes. It is recommended that, if possible, you take photos of the overall accident scene and any injuries you sustained.
6. DON’T DISCUSS THE ACCIDENT
Avoid discussing the facts of the accident with the other driver. You may accidentally say something that could be used against you later. For example, you might say, “I was changing the radio station when you hit me.” Even if the other driver ran a red light, a statement like this can be used to suggest you were not paying attention and now should share in the fault. Also, don’t apologize. Apologizing may suggest you are solely to blame for the accident when all drivers may share the blame. It’s okay to be concerned and discuss another’s comfort, but save your statements about how the accident happened for the police officer.
7. EXCHANGE INFORMATION
If after calling the police it is determined that they will not be responding, exchange information with all other drivers. One of the best ways to do this is to take a picture of their license, registration, and insurance card. Taking a picture will prevent any spelling mistakes or even an inability to later read your own handwriting. Do not limit your exchange of information to just the driver, exchange information with any passengers and/or witnesses.
8. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
If you or any of your passengers are injured, seek IMMEDIATE medical attention. Sometimes drivers are overwhelmed by adrenaline and the stress of the situation and they mistakenly think they have not been injured. The day after the crash is often a different story as the pain is more noticeable. Don’t wait to seek medical attention. Insurance adjusters regularly attempt to minimize your injury by suggesting that because you did not treat at the scene, on the date of the accident, or within the days immediately following, that you are less injured. Going to the doctor to get checked out documents your injuries and preserves necessary evidence.
9. KEEP A FILE
Put all documents, receipts and photos in one folder/location to keep track of all information. Drivers regularly find themselves unable to locate a receipt, photograph, or document because they have not created a centralized location for all records that can be easily accessed when necessary.
10. PROTECT YOURSELF
Perhaps the most important thing to do following a car accident is to consult an attorney. Your attorney can act on your behalf to protect your rights and make sure that available evidence is properly preserved. Insurance companies are quick to request a recorded statement about what happened in the accident, often times this request is made during the first conversation. It is important that you have received legal guidance before providing a recorded statement to any insurance company. Since most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, there is no charge to you unless the attorney recovers compensation for your injuries.
We recommend that you keep a copy of these top 10 things in your glove box and use this as a tool next time you’re involved in a car wreck. If you find that you are in the unfortunate circumstances of a DUI, car accident, slip and fall or any other injury contact POUNDSTONE SCOTTEN, PLLC at (480) 447-0790, right away. POUNDSTONE SCOTTEN, PLLC is here to protect your interests.
The information provided in this website is meant only as a general description of the current laws as of the date of the writing. It is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of all the nuances of the law and is intended to be only an overview. Many issues may appear simpler than they are, and an individual should always contact an attorney to obtain a complete, accurate interpretation of the law given the individual’s particular circumstances. POUNDSTONE SCOTTEN, PLLC makes no representations as to how the law would affect a particular situation and intends only to illustrate areas of concern and give general information.