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What Should I Do At The Scene Of An Accident In Which I Am Involved?

April 3, 2022

There are more than 6 million car accidents each year in the United States, with 3 million injuries, 2 million of which are severe or permanent injuries. Being involved in a car accident can be both confusing and frightening. The shock of the accident can cause people to say and do out of the ordinary things including fleeing the scene of an accident.

The first things a person does at the scene of an accident can not only ensure the settlement of an accident claim but can reduce injuries and save lives. There are severe penalties involved in leaving the scene of an accident where someone is injured or has bee killed.

Some states only require parties involved in an accident without injuries or severe damage to exchange license and insurance information. Other states require you to remain at the scene of an accident regardless of injuries or damage, until police arrive to assess the situation and take a report. Follow the rules of your state. Accidents that involve any injury require both involved parties to remain at the scene.

If you have been involved in an accident with injury or damage, the first and most important thing to do is stay at the scene of the accident and check passengers and other drivers for injury.

If you are at further risk of injury if you were to be moved after an accident, stay put. Minor injuries can be made severe if a person is moved when staying put is safest, also never move anyone else if it is safe to leave them until medical help arrives. If CPR is needed or the application of a tourniquet to stop bleeding is necessary to save a life, do what you can to save that life.

The following steps at an accident scene, after assessing the life safety of all persons involved, include:

  • Move vehicles to a safe spot if possible
    If you are in a state which requires only the exchange of information if there are no injuries or substantial damage, and it is safe to do so, both vehicles can be moved to a safer location (a road shoulder or parking lot) in order to exchange information. If you live in a state that requires police notification and that the vehicles need to remain where they collided and came to a stop, regardless whether there are no injuries or damage, stay put and follow the laws of your state.
  • Call the police
    Call 911 and advise them that you have been involved in an accident, your location, and if there are injuries involved that need medical attention.
  • Exchange information
    The only information that is required to be given to another party involved in an accident is: your name, your car’s make, model and VIN, your insurance company name and policy number, and their phone number if available. Under no circumstance allow anyone to photograph your driver’s license or your registration information. You are not required to give your address and phone number and you should never give that information out to any other driver. Your name and insurance information are sufficient for another party to report the accident and file a claim.
  • Get witness information if available
    If there are witnesses to the accident at the scene, get their information and request if they will be a witness if you are not at fault. Often times there are no witnesses available or there are witnesses who don’t want to get involved but do ask for their information if possible.
  • Assess property damage
    You are legally able to take photos of your damages and the damages to the other vehicle. You can also take photos of license plates, damage to any other property involved other than vehicles, debris caused by the accident, street signs, and any other objects that may have caused the accident including inoperable street lights, obscure signs or shrubbery that may have obscured your view.
  • Take photos
    It is wise to over-take photos than under-take. Taking photos of the area, the road, and any other visible object that may be a contributor to the accident can assist your attorney in litigating liability in your claim. We can often be confused and distracted after an accident and may not know the importance of photographic evidence.
  • Stay calm
    Don’t get involved in aggressive behavior after an accident. try to remain as calm as possible, even if the other party is aggressive. If you fear for your safety before police arrive, stay in your vehicle with locked doors.
  • Don’t admit liability to anyone
    We often say things innocently when we are involved in an accident without knowing the consequences of what we have said. We may try to be “nice” and admit that its possible we may have been partly at fault or we might admit that it was the second accident we’d had that year. So check for injuries, exchange information, and do not make small talk.
  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident
    You should contact your insurance company as soon after an accident as possible. No one expects a call from the scene of an accident and it is best not to call from the scene but to focus on the matters at hand. After arriving at home, your insurance company can be called to initiate a claim.

Write down the names of responding officers and insurance claims adjusters and other official parties involved in your accident claim. Note dates and times you made contact with them and note any numbers or other instructions they give you.

Remembering these simple steps can protect you legally and financially in the event you are in an accident and need to involve an attorney to litigate a personal injury claim or a claim to recover damages.

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