Millions of U.S. car accidents result in property damage as well as serious and even life-threatening injuries. Here are the most important things you should know if you are ever in an automobile accident:
Stop the Car
Never drive away from the scene of an accident, even if there’s no damage—this is your legal obligation. If it’s safe, move your car away from additional harm, to the shoulder of the road. If the accident disabled your car, flash your hazard lights to warn other drivers. Turn off the engine, shift into park, and set the emergency brake. Check for approaching vehicles, and make certain it’s safe to get out of your car before opening the door.
You can prevent additional chain reaction accidents at night by putting on your flashers or setting up flares, especially in truck accidents. Keep a flashlight in case of darkness or to warn others. If possible, wait for police to arrive before moving anything, but protect your safety first and foremost.
Promptly Seek Medical Attention
Check to see if anyone needs urgent medical care. If anyone received severe injuries, please call 911 immediately to request professional assistance from qualified first responders, such as ambulance services or firefighters.
The injured party may not recognize less-severe injuries for hours (or even days). If emergency medical personnel ask if you’re injured, simply say you are not sure, rather than no—then seek medical attention at your local emergency room or from your family physician. Even low-impact accidents may cause serious and permanent injuries.
Call the Police
Call the police, even when nobody sustained major injuries. A police report will help when filing a claim with your insurance company. Cooperate fully with the police, but avoid admitting fault or blaming others while at the scene, allowing the police to objectively judge events and determine who, if anyone, bears responsibility for the accident.
Carefully Report Details and Take Photos
When police officers arrive, recount the events accurately to the best of your ability. If you do not know certain facts, say you don’t know—do not guess, speculate, or make misstatements about what you think may have happened. Make sure that others involved do not make false statements, either.
These days, most people carry cell phones equipped with cameras. If you have one (or any kind of camera), take pictures of the vehicles involved in the accident. This is especially useful for property damage, the positioning of the cars, etc. If you sustained visible injuries, photograph them, too. However, do not interfere with the police investigation. If you can’t take pictures at the scene of the accident, take them as soon as possible after the accident.
Usually, police officers who arrive at the scene take down all important information. If officers do not report to the crash site or if certain witnesses need to leave, obtain the contact information for everyone you can, including:
- Names of the drivers
- Addresses of the drivers
- Phone numbers and other contact information
Request insurance cards for all drivers involved in the accident. Make sure to get:
- Insurance company names
- Insurance company policy numbers
Obtain information about the other car(s) involved in the accident, including:
- Vehicle descriptions, makes, models and years
- Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs)
- Vehicle registration information
- License plate numbers
Obtain information about the accident itself, including:
- Date and time of the accident, noting driving conditions, weather, and visibility
- Address or approximate address of the accident
- The road you are on, the nearest cross streets, the direction in which you were traveling, and the other vehicle’s position and trajectory
- Take photos from various angles or sketch a diagram of the crash scene
- Describe what happened using pen on paper, a text message or email to yourself, or audio or video recording—it’s easy to forget the details when you are all shaken up from a crash, so any record may help later
- The names, badge numbers, and contact information for any police officers who respond to the accident
- The names and contact information for any witnesses, so that you or your attorney can contact them in the future
Report What Happened to Your Insurer
Report the crash to your auto insurer as soon as possible. Even if the negligent driver’s insurance coverage should ultimately cover the accident, you may have medical payments—MedPay—coverage that can kick in to help cover your medical treatments while your case is pending.
Keep All Important Records
Keep all documents and records related to the crash organized in one place, including receipts and bills for all expenses, information related to your insurance claims, contact information for important parties, a record of your injury-related pain levels and limitations, and anything else relevant to the accident.
Call an Attorney
As soon as you address your physical well-being, contact a car accident attorney to discuss your rights. A lawyer can help protect your rights from the start with an insurance claim.
Useful Safety Tips
No matter how clean your driving record, you never know when an accident can strike. Use these handy tips to prepare for the unpredictable:
- Pack a safety kit
- Keep important documents at the ready (identification, additional insurance company contact information, vehicle registration, health plan information, et cetera)
- Charge your phone and bring it with whenever you hit the road
- Keep loose items in the center console or glove box, and not on the seats where they can get lost or fly around in an accident
Call for a Free Consultation With an Experienced Texas Car Accident Attorney
Know your rights if you were in an accident. The Houston law firm of Stewart J. Guss is experienced at representing auto accident victims and can help you. For a free consultation with the attorneys of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, call today at (281) 664-6500 or send us an email through our online contact form.