Did you know that over six million car accidents occur each year in the United States. One in three accidents involve personal injury to the driver or passengers and out of that number, two out of every ten accidents lead to fatal injuries.
If you or your loved ones are involved in an automobile accident, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself and your interests. The following is a list of the top ten things you should do if you are in an automobile accident:
1. DON’T DRIVE AWAY FROM THE ACCIDENT. Never drive away from the scene of an accident, even a minor one.
2. CALL THE POLICE. Regardless if there are serious injuries or not, you should always call the police. You may be required to provide a police report police to file a claim with your insurance company, even if it is just to make a claim for damage to your vehicle. The vehicles involved in the accident should stay where they are unless they interfere with traffic.
3. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION. Often, injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents are not immediately apparent. Most people report feeling the most pain a day or two following an automobile accident. Unless you are absolutely certain you were not injured, you should seek medical attention at your local emergency room or by seeing your family physician. Even in accidents involving minor impact, you can sustain a serious and permanent injury to your spinal cord. If you lost consciousness or were dazed for even a short period of time following the collision, you may have suffered a concussion or closed head injury. This can cause cognitive and behavioral changes if left untreated.
4. KEEP IN MIND OF OTHER DRIVERS. Further accidents can be prevented by setting up flares or keeping your flashers on. You should have a flashlight to keep you safe while you wait if it is dark and your lights don’t work. You should stay in your car if its safe or by the side of the road away from traffic.
5. GIVE OR WRITE DOWN AN ACCURATE RECORD OF WHAT HAPPENED. When the police arrive, make sure you tell the investigating officer(s) exactly what happened, to the best of your ability. If you do not know certain facts, tell that to the officer. Do not speculate, guess or misstate any of the facts. If you are asked if you are injured and you are not sure, say you are not sure, rather than no. Often, the pain and injuries from motor vehicle accidents become apparent hours after the actual collision. You should also make sure statements made by other persons involved in the accident are accurate as well.
6. EXCHANGE DRIVER INFORMATION. Typically, the investigating police officer obtains this information. However, if the police do not respond to the accident, you should obtain the name, address and telephone number of all persons involved in the accident, drivers and passengers alike. You should also obtain information about insurance by asking to see the insurance card for all vehicles involved in the accident. If there are witnesses, you should get information from them as well so that you or your attorney can contact them in the future. If police respond to the accident, the investigating officer usually will provide all drivers with a police report number. You can use that number later to obtain the police report. If the accident occurs on a state highway, you must request the report from the state police.
7. TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES. If you happen to have a camera in your vehicle, or a cell phone equipped with a camera, you should take pictures of the vehicles if there is visible damage. If you have visible injuries, you should photograph them as well. Remember to take a picture of the position of the accident of where it happened on the road or intersection. This could help identify fault later on.
8. CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY AND REPORT THE ACCIDENT. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Many policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation. Find out if you have medical benefits as part of your insurance coverage.
9. KEEP A RECORD OF ALL DOCUMENTS AND INFO. Keep all your accident-related documents and information together. This information should include a claim number, the claim’s adjuster who is handling the claim, names and phone numbers of all contacts, receipts for a rental car and other expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
10. PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS. The Most important thing you or your family should do after an accident is to speak with your attorney. Your attorney can protect your rights and make sure valuable evidence is not destroyed. Often, insurance companies want to take statements immediately after an accident. It is very important that you have received legal advice before providing such a statement. Your attorney can advise you on issues ranging from how to make sure you are fully compensated for your vehicle to how to make sure you are getting the best medical treatment available. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no legal fee unless the attorney recovers compensation for your injuries.