Much of the news and advice we share on this blog concerns the legal options you should consider after you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence. Here, however, we want to share advice that may help you long before you ever contact us for legal counsel.
Car accidents occur every day, killing and injuring thousands. The Internet is chock full of supposed advice about what to do in the aftermath of a car crash, but we found most of it wanting in some way or another so we compiled our own.
We don’t expect you to actually remember all this advice in the dazed minutes after an accident, so here’s what to do: after you read this, print it out, fold it up, and keep it in your glove box.
Call 911 for anyone who may be injured
If the accident is anything more serious than a low-speed fender bender, call 911. Do so even if nobody seems obviously injured. That person who says they’re “just shaken up” actually may have suffered a concussion. Leave those assessments to the experts.
If your vehicle is operable, move it out of the roadway as soon as possible
Even if your crash just happened, it may not be over yet.
If the crash scene is in the middle of an intersection or lane of travel, other approaching drivers may not notice your vehicles obstructing the flow of traffic until it’s too late for them to stop. Suddenly, a minor accident becomes a major one.
If your vehicle is operational, move it to a lane shoulder, or as far out of the path of traffic as you can. Do not leave the scene of the accident under any circumstances.
Activate your hazard lights. If you are able to move about safely, deploy any cones or road flares you may have on hand.
Auto accidents are frightening. Even if nobody has been hurt, your day is probably ruined, and you’re looking at weeks, months, or even years of dealing with the various financial and procedural consequences of the crash.
It is natural, then, that your crash hasn’t put you in a good frame of mind. But don’t make a bad situation worse by losing your temper.
Do not yell at the other driver, no matter how obvious their fault may seem to be. You will accomplish nothing. Remember, they are likely to be no happier about the crash than you are.
Do not admit fault to anyone
In the confusion and distress that immediately follows an accident, an upsetting thought might cross your mind: “That was my fault.”
Stop right there.
You may believe the accident was your fault. You could be right. But maybe you were only partially at fault. It’s also possible that you’re not at any fault; there could be contributing factors in the accident that you don’t know about. Perhaps, ten minutes earlier, a passing tanker truck with a leak dripped a slippery substance onto that section of the roadway. Do you really want to accept responsibility for that spill’s effects on your tires’ grip? Of course not.
The bottom line: you don’t really know whose fault the accident was. The scene of the accident is not the right time or place for you to try to figure it out.
Leave the fault-finding to the professionals. Any police at the scene will investigate the crash, and personnel assigned to your case by your insurance company likely will conduct their own investigations.
If you admit fault to the police, to anyone else involved in the accident, or to any other witnesses at the scene, you are likely to damage the ability of an insurance company or an attorney to assist you in recovering damages. A hasty statement of fault even could open you up to fines, prosecution, or lawsuits.
Generally speaking, avoid discussion of the accident with anyone other than the police, your insurance company, or your attorney.
Take photographs of the accident scene from as many angles as you safely can. Please use common sense: do not try to stop traffic or cross a multilane highway to take additional photos.
Try to take at least one photograph that includes every vehicle involved in the accident.
Do what you can to obtain the following information about other drivers involved in the accident:
- Insurance company name and policy number
- License plate number
- Make, model, and color of vehicle
Do your best to obtain names and contact information for anyone else who may have witnessed the crash. Do not sign your name to any documents at the scene, except for any citations a police officer might issue to you.
Contact your insurance company
From the moment of the accident, a clock started ticking at your insurance company. Most insurers require that you notify them of an accident as soon as possible, usually within 24 to 72 hours. Waiting longer could negatively affect your coverage.
Be as truthful with your insurance company as you can. Intentionally falsifying or omitting details is usually a basis for the insurance company to deny any coverage for the accident (and perhaps cancel your policy).
Call Scartelli Olszewski
If anyone was hurt in the accident, regardless of whether they were in your vehicle, strongly consider calling us for an immediate consultation.
If you’ve been hurt, we can help ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries and damages. If someone else was hurt, you may be a legal target for them or their insurance company. The accident attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski can help protect you.