10 Things You Need to do When in a Car Wreck
Car accidents are an undesirable topic, and an even more undesirable event in our lives. However, over 40,000 Americans are killed every year in a car accident, and millions are injured as a result of a wreck (US Department of Transportation, 2012). In West Virginia, we face the 4th highest risk for car accident fatality. These facts are frightening, but there are several ways to prepare for the unexpected when traveling, and there are some very important things drivers can do to protect themselves legally and financially in the event of a car accident.
• Stop the Car and check for injury.
Keep calm. It goes without saying that you should stop the car, and stay at the scene, but be sure to take a deep breath and gather your senses. Fleeing from an accident, particularly when someone was injured or killed can result in criminal penalties. Moving a car involved in a wreck before taking photos can hurt your narrative of the accident. Plus, its generally good behavior to make sure no one is seriously injured whether the accident is your fault or someone else’s.
• Protect the Scene.
Regardless of the severity of the accident – Get out the roadside kit (See: Other tips). Put on your hazard lights, lay down road flares, and do whatever you can to let other drivers know there was a collision. You can move your car after you’ve taken the necessary steps to protect yourself legally and financially.
• Call 911.
Even if it’s a minor accident, get the police on the scene and an ambulance if someone is in need of medical attention. Limit conversation with the other driver aside from exchanging insurance information. It may be cliché, but anything you say can and will be used to hurt your narrative of the accident.
• Accurately Describe the Facts.
When the police arrive, they will investigate. It’s important to be specific about every fact that led to the accident. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the officers you don’t know. Any speculation or assumptions on your part can weaken your legal defense.
• Take Photos of the Traffic Collision.
You may have to move your car out of the way before you can take pictures if the car accident was minor. In that case, take pictures as soon as you move your car to a safe location. Get out your phone, or the disposable camera from the roadside kit, and get your photographer hat on. You need to take pictures of the entire accident, the point of impact, any skid marks, and any visible injuries. It’s also a good idea to take photos of traffic signs and the surrounding area. If police are already on the scene, do not interfere with their investigation, but make sure you get pictures.
• Exchange Information.
Even if damage to your vehicle is minimal, you need to exchange information with the other driver. You’ll need everything a police officer needs when you get pulled over for a moving violation – Driver’s license, registration, and proof insurance. It’s important to have the notepad ready from your roadside kit, so you can right down all the information. If the name of the driver is different than the name on the registration or insurance, you’ll need to make note of the driver’s relationship to the owner. DO NOT discuss the accident with the other driver, only discuss facts with police officers and your insurer. Never admit fault even if you believe it was your fault.
• Talk to Witnesses
Part of keeping a record of the car accident is getting an account from anyone who was nearby when the accident occurred. Get names, numbers, and addresses of any witnesses. Also be sure to ask them if they’ve seen more accidents in the same place.
• Report the Car Accident.
Make sure you call your insurance company and let them know you were involved in a car accident. They’ll ask you a series of questions, but even if it’s a minor car accident it’s important to report it in order to protect yourself. Make sure you give the insurance company all the facts. If the insurance company catches you in a lie, you can get in serious trouble and even be denied coverage for the accident. If you do need medical attention, ask the insurer about “Med-Pay”. A lot of car insurance policies include coverage for medical treatment when involved in an accident.
• Keep a record of medical treatment.
Go to the doctor even if you feel fine. In most cases, car accident victims don’t feel pain until a day or two after the crash. You’ll need to record the name of the doctor and any treatment you receive. It’s very easy to document medical treatment, but it’s also important to document how your injuries affect your daily life. Keep track of normal activities you are prevented from doing, any work days missed, and how your injury affects your family life.
• Consult a Car Accident Attorney
Even if you do not plan to pursue legal action against another motorist, you should consult with an attorney. Consultation is free, in most cases, and a car accident or personal injury attorney from Charleston, West Virginia can help you maximize your recovery if you’ve been injured or protect you if you’re at fault.
• Get an accident compliance roadside kit to keep in your car.
You can get a kit for around $30 if you look online – and they have everything you need in the event of a car accident. Be sure to get one that has road flares or glow sticks, so you can let other drivers know something is wrong. Most of them also come with a camera, which is not necessary if you have a phone capable of snapping some photos of the accident.
• Do not take any early settlement offers.
Sometimes, an insurance company will offer you a settlement right out of the gate, and it’s important that you talk to an attorney before accepting anything. You will want to make sure you’re getting all damages paid for, the best medical treatment available, and any compensation you may be entitled to for pain and suffering.
If you have a complex question about a claim, contact us now and we’ll review your claim for free. The Giatras Law Firm is dedicated to getting justice for our clients.