If you drive long enough, you are bound to be in a few car accidents. While some may be more serious than others, drivers need to know what to do after a collision.
According to The Barnes Firm, a personal injury attorney in Rochester, NY, the moments and days following a traffic accident can be crucial for protecting a person’s rights and guarding against the potential for liability claims. By following the steps in this article, you can do more to protect your rights in the event of a car accident.
Remain at the Scene
Staying at the scene is one of the most important steps for protecting your rights and for defending against liability. Furthermore, leaving the scene of an accident can lead to criminal charges.
Even if you think the accident was minor, you should stay at the scene to make contact with the other parties involved and to make sure everyone is ok. If you need to, you can move your car out of traffic and to a safe location, but you should not leave.
Assess Yourself and Others for Injuries
The wellbeing of yourself and others should be the first priority after an accident. Assess your condition to make sure you do not have any obvious injuries and then check your passengers and any other people who may have been involved in the accident. If anyone is hurt, you should call for an ambulance right away.
Contact Law Enforcement
All accidents should be reported to the police. The police might not respond to what they consider minor accidents in some areas, but reporting the accident is an important part of documenting the events. If the police do respond to the scene, the report they make could be significant if you need to file a claim or if a claim is filed against you.
Once the scene is under control and any injured persons have been attended to, you need to exchange information with other people involved in the accident. At the very least, you should exchange names, insurance information and phone numbers with the other drivers. Beyond that, you might want to get the names and phone numbers of passengers or any other people that may have been involved.
You should also look for any people who may have witnessed the accident. You shouldn’t try to question them or discuss the events of the accident in any way, but you should ask for their names and contact information. If there is ever an insurance claim or lawsuit, the accounts of witnesses could be important for settling issues concerning liability.
Avoid Discussing Responsibility
While you might need to make contact with the other drivers, passengers or witnesses, you should not discuss fault with anyone. Even saying something as simple as “sorry” or “I didn’t see you” could be an issue if a claim or lawsuit were to arise from the accident. If anyone tries to discuss responsibility with you, just be polite and tell them you are not ready to talk about the events of the accident.
Document the Scene
The more information you have about the accident the better. If you decide to file a claim, it could increase your chances of approval. If you need to file a lawsuit, the information from the scene of the accident could increase your chances of a successful outcome.
The first thing you can do is take notes while the information is fresh in your mind. Make sure to note the weather conditions, the time of day and your recollection of what happened. Record any injuries you observe to yourself and others. Make notes on any property damage you see. You should also consider taking photos of the scene.
Contact Your Insurer
Report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible. Be honest and provide the basic facts of the accident. They might want you to meet with an adjuster to discuss the accident. There may also be discussions concerning any provisions of your policy that may apply to the accident. Be prepared with all of your information for the meeting with the adjuster.
Seek Medical Attention
You might need to see a doctor even if you were able to leave the scene without any assistance. Some injuries take time to become apparent, and the high emotions in the moments after an accident can make it difficult to assess some types of injuries. If you believe there was any chance you were injured, you should go see a doctor as soon as you can.
As a final step, you might need to consult with an attorney. Some insurers will try to avoid paying the full cost of an accident if they think they can get away with it. An experienced attorney will be able to assess the claim to make sure you are getting fair compensation.