Twice in my 20-plus years of driving I’ve been in an automobile accident. The first was clearly my fault, but another driver caused the second accident. Whether you’re the one who bears the blame or if you’re an innocent victim, a car crash can be traumatic, and in the aftermath it’s easy to forget the basic rules of the road.
In my most recently accident, about half an hour passed before it even occurred to me to call the police. (The accident was serious enough to warrant a call.) When the officers finally showed up, they asked why the other driver had left the scene before the police arrived. I was honest with them: in the confusion, I never even thought about calling the cops and I assume the other driver didn’t think about it, either.
If you’re like me, and have seldom or never been involved in an auto accident, you may need some refreshers. I hope you don’t have an accident anytime soon, but here are some basics to remember if, unfortunately, you are in an accident.
Put on your emergency flashers so other drivers will go around you.
Check to see if anyone in your car is injured and, if so, call for medical help.
Exit your vehicle if and when it is safe to do so.
Check to see if anyone in the other vehicle is injured and, if so, call for medical help.
Call the police. They will make a police report of the facts of the accident, which can be used in insurance investigations and lawsuits. The police will also assist in exchanging information between drivers and in routing the traffic around the accident. They can also determine if anyone has been driving while intoxicated.
Take a picture of the scene if you have a camera or cell phone with camera.
If you are able to safely move your vehicle, pull off to the shoulder of the road.
Exchange names, addresses, telephone numbers and insurance information with other drivers. This information is very important for filing a claim with your insurance company.
Get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses so you know who to call if the accident needs to be investigated.
Don’t discuss the accident with other drivers or witnesses. If you admit liability, this may be used against you later. You also don’t want to start any arguments.
Mentally note, and, as soon as possible, write down the facts surrounding the accident, such as the time, date, location of the accident and weather conditions.
If the police have been called, stay at the scene of the accident until the responding officer tells you that you can leave.
Call your insurance agent and report the accident. Ask your agent about any time limits for filing a claim. If you are going to file a claim, get the claims process started as soon as possible. Your insurance company will investigate the loss, take statements and inspect the damage to both vehicles in order to determine the merits of your claim.
Call your attorney if you are injured or the damages are extensive. The laws of each state may vary. Your attorney can explain the law to you and advise you of your legal rights and obligations. Your attorney can also help determine who was at fault and may help you get compensation for your property damage and personal injuries.