If you drive on a regular basis, it’s probably going to happen sooner rather than later. The chances are pretty good that you will, at one point in time in your life, be involved in an automobile accident. Very few people have the ability to say that they have never been involved in an accident. Some people are lucky to be in minor fender benders, while others are not so lucky. Being involved in an automobile accident can be a very traumatic experience. From the moment of initial impact, your whole world can be turned upside down.
If you are involved in an automobile accident as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian (or know someone who has been involved in one), here are a few tips on what you should do immediately following an accident:
- Try to remain calm, don’t panic and let your brain process what just happened. Accidents happen all the time. In today’s day and age, I believe that over 25% of drivers have a cell phone in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. Negligent and distracted driving is on the rise and will continue to be a huge problem. People just aren’t paying attention as they should once they get behind the wheel of the car. Once an accident occurs, try to remain as calm as possible and check yourself and your passengers for injuries. Don’t panic, help will be arriving soon. Lastly, your brain will be in overdrive and will need to let it process the information that is flowing into it.
- You may need to move your vehicle. If your vehicle is in a hazardous location for other vehicles or impeding the flow of traffic, please move it out of the way. If you can take pictures with your cell phone, please do so, but do not jeopardize your safety, or anyone else’s safety, to get a few pictures. Your safety comes first.
- You may also need to secure your automobile. Immediately turn off your car’s ignition once the car is in a safe location. Today’s motor vehicles are extremely high tech and contain many electric parts. Shutting the vehicle off will shut down all systems. You never know what damages were caused in the collision, and you do not want to risk further injury to yourself or anyone else by leaving an unsafe car running.
- Avoid any sort of confrontation. Sometimes people are reasonable after an accident and sometimes they are not, especially if you were at fault. Remember, while accidents happen all the time, there is never a good time for an accident to happen, and most accidents usually happen at the absolute worst time. While you may not be happy about how the accident happened, or that the accident happened at a really inconvenient time, please keep your calm and avoid confrontation.
- If the other driver is acting irrationally, get back in your car and remain calm. If the other driver is being belligerent, and you believe you can take a cell phone video, please do so. If you believe that you are in fear of imminent bodily harm, call 911 and stay on the line with an operator.
Exchange information. If you have a minor fender bender and no-one was hurt, you may still need an accident report for your insurance company. The law enforcement officer will investigate the accident to verify who was at fault. They are trained in accident investigations. While you should never discuss responsibility for the accident (who was at fault), you should always gather information for your insurance company. You will need a driver’s license, insurance details, and registration information. If the party who hit you starts apologizing, let them apologize and then immediately record what they said to you in as much detail as possible.
- Take photographs. We highly recommend that you immediately document the scene of the accident, damages to all cars involved in the accident, and damages to your body. Plus, and any road hazards that may have contributed to the accident (construction barriers, potholes, debris, etc). Lastly, take a few pictures of your surroundings just in case.
- Report the accident immediately. If you are able to, go and check on the other people involved in the accident to make sure they are ok. Next, call 911 and report that you have been involved in an automobile accident and give them the location in as much detail as possible. Once law enforcement arrives, cooperate with them, and explain how the accident happened in as much detail as you can recall. If you know of any witnesses that saw the crash, politely ask the officer to speak with them as well. Upon completion of the report, ask the officer for a copy of the information, or at a minimum the name of the law enforcement agency, officer’s name, and crash report number.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you are injured or believe that you may have been injured. Injuries sustained in auto-accidents can vary from minor to severe to life-threatening. If you are experiencing any pain, including mild pain, discomfort, dizziness or numbness or tingling, immediately seek medical attention. If medical assistance is offered at the accident scene, consider having the paramedics examine you or transport you to the Emergency Room.
If you have automobile insurance on your vehicle, your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits will eventually kick in and begin to cover your medical bills. If you don’t own an automobile or live with a resident-relative who does, you must do a little homework to see if you can get benefits somewhere else. Either way, the emergency responders, ambulance and hospital should treat your injuries.
- Get the names and contact information for all witnesses right away. Sometimes, witnesses are in a hurry and need to get somewhere else. Remember, they weren’t planning on witnessing your accident. It will always help to have this information. Our office will immediately contact all witnesses and have them interviewed by a professional investigator. If you do not know the witnesses personally, they are considered to be “independent observers,” and their statement could help in any arguments about how the accident occurred.
These tips could save your life, help you gather insurance money when applicable, and give you peace of mind. If you’ve been in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver, please contact the Dellutri Law Group. We can help.