By their very nature, car accidents are unpredictable. One minute you are driving along, and the next moment, out of the blue, a collision occurs. While auto accidents are frightening and often traumatic, try to keep your wits about you. Some times, small fender benders can be handled with car insurance and a defensive driving course. Of course, if you suffer a serious injury, there is little you can do but wait for an ambulance. Otherwise, begin collecting evidence.
What to do if You're in a Car Accident
1. Call the Police
Try to assess whether anyone in the vehicles involved is hurt, and always call the police or 911 immediately. That is certainly true in a major collision, but it is also important if the accident seems like a minor fender bender. What initially seems like a minor accident could have large repercussions. For example, whiplash often occurs in those hit in low-impact rear-end accidents.
2. Document, Document, Document
If you are physically able, use your phone to take photos and videos of the accident scene. Besides recording the damage to the vehicles and any injuries suffered, get clear photos of the license plates and car model. Get the name and address, contact information, driver’s license number, and insurance details of the other driver.
If there are eyewitnesses to the crash, get their names and contact information. You may want to record a statement from any eyewitnesses on your phone.
Take photos of the road conditions, any skid marks or other indicators of the crash, as well as any debris or pavement damage that may have contributed to the accident. The more evidence you have, the stronger your claim.
Try to protect the integrity of the scene by putting the flashers on your vehicle or using flares, at least until the police arrive.
3. Write Down What Happened
There is always a lot of confusion at the scene of car accidents, and it is often hard to remember just what happened after the fact. That is why you should write down how the accident happened to the best of your knowledge as soon as possible. If you cannot write down your memories, record them on your phone.
4. Do Not Admit Fault
Do not admit fault to anyone at the scene. When the police ask you what happened, provide an honest answer, but do not say you caused the accident, even if you think you did. Factors outside your awareness, such as mechanical failure of the other vehicle, may actually have caused the crash, but only a thorough investigation will reveal this.
5. Seek Prompt Medical Attention
Anyone seriously injured in a car accident should have emergency services take them to the nearest hospital. However, seek prompt medical attention even if you do not think you were badly hurt. The adrenaline pumping through the body after an accident can mask pain and injury, and there are some injuries like soft tissue injuries and even concussions that are not apparent right away.
Failure to have a doctor examine you shortly after the accident can harm your claim if you are injured. The insurance company may allege the injuries did not occur because of the car crash if you did not seek medical treatment, or that they resulted from a pre-existing condition.
6. Consider Legal Advice
If no one was harmed in the accident and there was little property damage, you might handle the insurance claim on your own. However, if you were severely injured, or anyone was killed in the crash, contact a car accident attorney at once. The same holds true if it appears you will lose a considerable time off work or school due to the accident or incur substantial medical bills.
New Jersey attorney Jeffrey Ferrier advises, “If you are involved in a car accident, you should contact an attorney in almost all cases and at least discuss the situation with an expert. If you are the victim and are injured, you will want representation as soon as possible because you may need to appear as a witness in the traffic court. If you are the “at fault” driver, then you also need an attorney to represent you in traffic court to ensure your rights are properly protected early on in that process.”