What to Do If You Are in a Motor Vehicle Accident
When you are in an accident, you have immediate, important decisions to make. For the crucial decisions you have to make later on, consult with a personal injury attorney.
Immediately After the Accident
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, the first thing you need to do is stop your car or truck; pull over to the side of the road if you can. Most states make leaving the scene of an accident a crime.
Check to see whether you or your passengers have been injured. See if the occupants of the other vehicle(s) are okay, too. If anyone is injured, call an ambulance; it is usually best not to move an injured person yourself. Prevent additional injuries by making your vehicle visible: set out flares, turn on your hazard lights or raise the hood of your vehicle.
States have different rules about when people who have been in accidents need to call the police. To be on the safe side, you may want to call any time you are in an accident. The police will decide whether they need to come to the scene.
Meanwhile, exchange information with the other driver. Write down the driver's name, address, telephone number, license plate number, driver's license number and full auto insurance information. Give your information to the other driver, too.
If anyone witnessed the accident, try to get their identifying information. In addition, make note of the circumstances of the crash and anything unusual that you noticed. Record the weather conditions, the speed limit on the road, your speed at the time of the crash, your estimate of the other driver's speed and other such elements. This will be important if the case ends up in litigation or an insurance dispute.
Do not admit fault. The determination of fault, if any, will be made later. For now, focus on safety and proper accident procedures. Do not sign any waivers offered by the other driver or the insurance company.
When the Police Arrive
Cooperate with any police officers who are at the scene of the accident. Provide them with whatever information they request, including information on injuries and witnesses, but avoid making editorial comments or admitting responsibility for what happened. Legal liability is complex, and you may not have the facts you need to determine who was responsible for the accident.
Make sure to get the business cards of the police officers who investigate. Ask for the incident number, too, so that you can get a copy of the accident report (and so that you can give this information to your insurance company). Do not leave the scene of the accident until the police officers tell you that it is okay to do so.
Soon After the Accident
Even if you are in minor pain, it is best to be examined by a physician. Injuries may not truly show themselves until later, and early treatment can prevent significant pain or other damage. In addition, an insurance company could argue that your failure to seek medical treatment aggravated your injury, or even that your injury did not arise from the accident at all.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
When you consult with a lawyer, bring all of your automobile insurance information with you. Do not sign any documents or checks from an insurance company before you speak with the attorney. Document all of the costs related to the accident, such as renting a car, lost wages, medical bills and other costs. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you sort out the all the losses related to your accident.
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