Car accidents can happen to anyone, even the best drivers. If you are ever involved in a car accident, it’s hard to know what to do. Here are some tips. These tips are given from a legal perspective, but they are not intended as legal advice, nor are they intended as medical advice. Always follow the instructions of your physician to care for your health.
On the Scene
When you’re involved in a car accident, the first step is to evaluate your injuries. If any part of your body is in pain or hurts to move, particularly your neck or back, do not move it. The safest thing to do is nothing. Sit where you are and wait for help to arrive. Any movement could exacerbate any injury that you have. If you feel that you have an injury, the best thing to do is simply remain where you are. Help will arrive shortly. The only exception is if it is unsafe to stay in your vehicle. If there are open flames or smoke near your gas tank, exiting the vehicle may be the safest option.
If you are uninjured and your vehicle is in a safe condition, check on all passengers and drivers. Other people may be in need of medical attention. If so, call 911 and make sure that anyone in need receives medical attention.
Next, decide whether you can safely move your car off of the road. If it is safe to do so, your vehicle should be moved to the shoulder or another place out of the flow of traffic. However, do not leave the scene. In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you can face serious criminal penalties for committing a hit-and-run.
Next, call the police. Police should be called even for minor accidents, and a police report should be filed. While waiting for the police, exchange information with the occupants of all other involved vehicles. You should get the name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, and insurance company of all drivers, passengers, and witnesses. You should also write down the license plate number of all involved vehicles. Take photos of the scene, all vehicles, and any visible injuries. Always ask permission before photographing anyone else.
When talking to other involved individuals, be cordial and polite, but do not offer any apologies or admit to any wrongdoing. Anything you say may be used against you in a subsequent lawsuit or criminal investigation, and even innocent statements may be taken the wrong way. The safest thing to do is to avoid commenting on fault or mistakes. When speaking to witnesses, ask them to describe what they saw and write down what they say.
When talking to the police, honestly describe what happened, but avoid admitting to wrongdoing. Even if you feel that you may be at fault, it is often not clear at the time of the accident, and any statements you make may be cast in a false light later. Write down the name and badge number of any police on the scene. The police will often offer to arrange for transportation to the hospital. If you have any pain at all, go. Many injuries, particularly to the neck and back, can be hard to detect and may not cause any immediate pain. The safest thing to do is to be evaluated as soon as possible following a car accident. This may also help with any subsequent legal claim by providing early diagnostic data for your injury. You don’t want to be in the position of having to explain that you were in pain after the accident but declined medical treatment.
After the Accident
As soon as possible after your accident, inform your auto insurance company that you were in an accident, but avoid making statements regarding the specific circumstances. Then contact a qualified attorney. Your attorney can help you prepare a statement to your insurance company, protect your legal rights, and find medical treatment if necessary. Your attorney can also help you get an evaluation of any property damage that you suffered.
Your attorney can also help negotiate with your insurance company. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, auto insurers, in most circumstances, are required to pay for your medical expenses regardless of fault. They may also be required to cover property damage. In addition, you may also be owed compensation for pain and suffering or other out-of-pocket expenses, though the rules regarding coverage may be complicated and confusing. A qualified attorney can help you navigate the rules, negotiate with your insurer, arrange for a beneficial settlement, or, if necessary, file suit on your behalf to enforce your rights.
A car accident is almost always unpleasant, but with the right legal help, the aftermath can be as painless as possible. Contact a qualified attorney today if you are experiencing injuries related to a motor vehicle accident.