19 Oct What to do if you have a Car Accident?
Stay at the Scene
Never leave the accident scene until it’s appropriate to do so. If you leave, particularly where someone has sustained injuries or was killed, you can face serious criminal penalties for being a hit-and-run driver.
Note down a detailed description of what happened, collecting as much information – photographs and notes – as you can while at the scene.
Scene – date, time, location, weather conditions, traffic conditions, road markings/signs/signals
Vehicles – make, model, registration number, colour, condition, estimated speed, direction, use of lights/indicators, number of passengers
People – contact details, description/distinguishing features of driver(s), contact details of passengers, pedestrians/other witnesses, details of any police officers involved
Damage – description of the damage to vehicles/property and any injuries to people involved
Check on All Drivers and Passengers
Before assessing property damage, make sure everyone involved in the accident is okay. Get medical attention for anyone who needs it. If a person is unconscious or has neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical help arrives, unless a hazard requires moving the person.
Call the Police
If there’s significant property damage, physical injury, or death, you need to call the police. Ask that a police report be filed in situations where cops do arrive at the scene, and obtain the name and badge numbers of the responding officers.
Get the names, numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information from all drivers involved. If there are passengers, also obtain their names, numbers, and addresses. In talking to other drivers, try to be cordial and cooperative.
However, you shouldn’t apologize for anything at the scene. For example, if you say, “I’m so sorry I ran that red light! Is everyone okay?” you may be admitting legal liability for what happened. Immediately after an accident, it might not be clear who was at fault or more at fault. Moreover, in many states, fault isn’t determinative of which insurer will pay for any loss. Therefore, try not to admit guilt unintentionally or unnecessarily.
Talk to Witnesses
Ask every witness what he or she saw. Get their names, numbers, or addresses, if possible. Ask locals if they’ve ever witnessed other accidents in the same place.
Inform Your Insurance Company
Promptly tell your insurance company you’ve been in an accident. Cooperate with them and tell them the truth about what happened and the extent of your injuries. Explain the facts clearly. If the insurance company finds out that you’ve lied to them about anything, you can get into serious trouble, including possible denial of coverage for the accident. Obtain and review any police report filed, so you can point out who broke what traffic laws or who was at fault.
Keep Track of Your Medical Treatment
Note any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, or other medical professionals that you receive treatment from, and each medical provider that referred you to other caregivers. Keep a detailed account of the treatments or medications you receive. Also, request copies of all medical reports and bills as these help you prove your medical expenses later. Medical expenses are relatively easy to document, but pain and suffering is trickier to prove. Keep a record of how your injuries have impacted your daily life. Include any missed workdays, list any routine activities you can’t undertake, and describe how the injuries have affected your family life.
Take photographs of any damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. Photos helps your insurance adjuster determine how much you should be compensated for the damage to your car and can help in court. Pictures of your car before the accident can offer a great “compare and contrast” to show the true extent of the damage sustained in the accident.
Get a Property Damage Valuation
Obtain your insurance company’s damage valuation. If you aren’t satisfied with how your insurance company has valued your vehicle, don’t give up. Get two independent repair estimates or replacement quotes. Assertively inform the adjuster of your concerns. If you can’t agree on your car’s value, consider mediation or consult an attorney.
Use Caution in Discussing the Incident
Don’t talk to anyone about the accident other than your lawyer, your insurance company, and the police. Don’t talk to a representative of another insurance company, without the knowledge of your attorney or insurer. If called by the other insurance company, be polite, but ask them to call your attorney or insurer to arrange an interview. Also, tell your lawyer or insurer about the call.
Be Wary of Early Settlement Offers
Be careful if you’re offered a settlement from an insurance company. Confirm all your physical injuries have been treated. Some injuries don’t show up or reach their greatest level of discomfort until many days, weeks, or months later. Don’t settle a claim until you know you’ll be compensated for all your injuries, and consult an attorney before signing any settlement documents.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
If anyone was injured in the accident, it’s best to consult an experienced attorney. An attorney can help you maximize your recovery if you’re injured or better defend yourself if you’re at fault. Many accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. That means that your lawyer only receives a fee if you’re awarded damages or receive a settlement. Contact an experienced attorney now for a free claim review.
- If you are involved in a road-traffic accident as a driver and one or more of the following occurs:
- a person, other than yourself, is injured
- damage is caused to another vehicle or to someone else’s property – including street lamps, signs, bollards etc. an animal has been killed or injured, except in your own vehicle or trailer
Then you must:
- stop and remain at the scene for a reasonable period
- give your vehicle registration number, your name and address, and that of the vehicle owner (if different) to anyone with reasonable grounds for asking for those details
- If you don’t exchange those details at the scene, you must report the accident at a police station or to a police constable as soon as you can, and in any case within 24 hours.
If another person is injured you must:
- produce your certificate of insurance, if anyone at the scene has reasonable grounds to see it.
- if you do not, you must report the accident at a police station or to a constable as soon as you can and in any case within 24 hours. You’ll need to produce your certificate of insurance but if you don’t have it when reporting the accident to the police, you may take it, within seven days of the accident, to the police station you nominate when you report the incident.
Reporting the accident to the police by telephone is not sufficient and you cannot ask someone else to report for you.
You’re obliged to do these things not only when you are directly involved in an accident, but also if your vehicle’s ‘presence’ was a factor.