On average, there are more than 5,000,000 car accidents in the United States every year, with over 30,000 of these accidents resulting in fatalities. This shocking fact means that most Americans can expect to be in a car accident at some point in their lives – either when they are driving their own car or riding in someone else’s. If you turn out to be one of these unlucky people, it is a good idea to know just what you should do following the accident.
Reacting correctly to this kind of situation can make a huge difference in the outcome, helping to minimize the costs and potential problems that you might face afterward. If you know just what to do in the immediate aftermath of your car accident, this can also help minimize injuries and even reduce the likelihood of a fatality. It is best to familiarize yourself with what you should do now, rather than waiting till after an accident to find out you don’t know what to do.
Of course, following a serious car accident in New York – particularly one in which injuries are involved – you will certainly want to contact an experienced lawyer. The legal issues involved in a car accident can be very complex and it is easy to make a misstep. All of this is best explained by a New York City car accident lawyer familiar with this type of law. The assistance of a qualified lawyer can prove invaluable.
While no one wants to be in a car accident, it does not hurt to be prepared in case one occurs. If you find yourself involved in an accident on the road, try to remain as calm as possible and handle it in a systematic, sensible way. This is how you should deal with a car accident:
Given the high likelihood that at some point in your life you will be in a car accident, there is one thing you can do now in preparation for that scary event, which is to assemble and maintain an emergency kit in your car’s glove compartment. It should include a pen and paper for jotting down notes and a cheap disposable camera so you can take photos of the accident site – including all of the vehicles involved in the accident. Of course, if you have your phone with you – something you should definitely have with you in any case – you could take photos using it instead.
Do not forget to also add a card containing information about any medications you take and any medical conditions you have – including allergies. You should include the same information for anyone who regularly rides in your car. Your kit should also have a list of law enforcement contact numbers. There are a few other things you might want to have in your trunk in the event of an emergency, such as emergency flares, warning triangles and a set of cones you can put up. And do not forget to include a flashlight, since many accidents take place at night and fumbling around in the dark might make things even worse.
Make Safety a Priority
If you are involved in a minor accident in which no serious injuries have occurred, you should move your car off to the side of the road so it will not be blocking oncoming traffic. If possible, the drivers of any other vehicles involved should do the same. Otherwise, you are simply risking another potential accident if you leave your car positioned in the middle of the road. Nighttime accidents in particular can be difficult for other drivers to spot until it is too late.
If it is not possible to move the car or cars and there is no immediate danger posed by remaining in the vehicle – such as a fire – the drivers and any passengers should stay in their cars with their seat-belts fastened until official help arrives on the scene. If it can be done safely, you might want to put out warning triangles, flares or cones. And do not forget to turn on your hazard lights. If you have a cell phone, you should definitely call for assistance.
Check to See If Anyone Is Injured
When it is safe to get out of the car and do so, you should do a quick check to ensure that everyone in your car and in the other vehicle or vehicles is okay. It is quite possible for very serious injuries result from even a relatively low-speed collisions. If anyone is injured, immediately dial 911 so that medical help can arrive as quickly as possible.
It can be extremely dangerous to move an injured individual from a vehicle if you do not have the proper equipment and training, so do not remove any injured car occupants from a vehicle unless the situation is so dangerous that they have to be removed for their own safety. Otherwise, you might cause even more serious injuries. For instance, someone might have a damaged spinal column – which means that moving them without a backboard could result in paralysis. If at all possible, leave it to the professionals. While Good Samaritan laws may offer you some legal liability protection, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Following your accident, you will want to exchange information with the other driver or drivers involved in the incident. This exchange should include everyone’s name, phone number, address, driver’s license number, license plate number, insurance company and the insurance policy number. In the event that you need it, make sure that you have this information with you at any time you are in your car.
Keep in mind that if the name of the driver differs from the name connected with the insurance, you will want to clarify just what the relationship is between the two of them. You should get the name and address of both. It is also a good idea to write down a description of the cars involved in the accident, including their make, model, year and color.
In addition to this, write out a straightforward description of the accident, explaining exactly how and where it happened. A good reason for doing this as soon as possible is that you are more likely to remember all the details and avoid confusion if you jot things down right away. But while you are on the scene, do not at any point say that you were at fault – either to the police or the other drivers. Otherwise, you will make filing a claim against the other person’s insurance for damages extremely difficult.
Document the Accident with Photos
As suggested above, you will want to use a camera to fully document any damage to your own vehicle and any other vehicles that are involved in the accident. While you definitely should take up close photos of the damage, do not limit yourself to only this. You will also need to take wider shots designed to make clear the context in which the accident took place. This will make it easier for you to make your case with any claims adjuster.
For instance, you should take a number of photos from various angles of any traffic signs, stop signs or stop lights near the scene of the accident. That way, if any of these important features were obscured in any way – such as by bushes or trees – or were otherwise defective, you will have an easy way to prove it. In the same way, if there is any damage to the road surface or other road conditions that might have caused the accident, document this as well. Such photographic evidence can also be useful in refuting inaccurate assertions or testimony of others.
Also make an effort to get the contact information for any witnesses who might have been at the scene of the accident. Getting their version of events can be particularly helpful for you if the other driver chooses to dispute your version of exactly what happened before and during the accident. Bystanders may be reluctant to do this, but you only need a few – or perhaps just one – to help support your case if necessary.
File an Accident Report
While law enforcement in certain localities may not choose to respond to a car accident unless there are injuries involved or if the damage is financially significant, a driver in an accident should still file a vehicle accident report with his or her insurance company. These can generally be downloaded from DMV websites or picked up at local police stations and filled out by hand. The benefit of filing a police report is that it can help speed up the claims process with insurance companies.
Understand Your Insurance
Familiarizing yourself with the details of your insurance coverage is not exactly an exciting pastime. However, understanding your insurance prior to an accident will make the entire process of getting compensated for damages much easier. For instance, you do not want to find out only after you have had an accident that your insurance will not cover things like a rental car replacement or towing – the cost of which can quickly add up to quite a bit.
Generally speaking, it will only cost a few dollars extra on your premiums to add additional coverage for things like towing or car rental reimbursement. This comes in handy following an accident or if your car happens to get stolen, since it means you will have a rental car at no cost to you while you are waiting for your car to be repaired or replaced. Check with your insurance agent for more specific details.
One of the most important questions that has to be dealt with when you’ve had a car accident is exactly who is going to pay for any or all of the damages? If it is a very minor fender bender, the drivers involved can choose to simply handle the damages themselves without actually involving their insurance companies. However, this is not necessarily the best option. There are several reasons for this.
Even if the other driver – or drivers – involved in the crash agree to pay for any damages caused to your car during the accident, once seeing the actual repair costs they may decide that it is more than they actually want to pay. In the meantime, the passage of time will make it more difficult to work with your insurance company so that they can piece together exactly what happened while you file a claim.
And there is another problem with the drivers simply handling the situation for themselves without the help of their insurance companies. You have absolutely no assurance that the other driver will not back out of your verbal agreement and report the accident you both had to his insurer. Worse than this, the other driver may choose to claim that he or she received injuries that were not evident at the time of the accident. This could result in your insurer paying out a very sizable settlement – or alternatively you could find yourself caught up in a lengthy and expensive lawsuit.
This is why it is so important to ensure that you provide your insurance company with a full accounting of the accident that you just had. You will also want to examine your policy, since if the amount paid out in damages is low enough, it may be that you will be able to avoid a premium increase penalty – or at least ensure that it is not too high.
Experiencing an auto accident is traumatic and can be life-changing, especially if serious injury or death is involved. The toll on you and your family can be both financially and emotionally devastating. If you have up until this point been fortunate enough to avoid experiencing a serious car accident, it may be that these steps will help you avoid one in the future.
But the fact is, it is statistically extremely likely that at some point you will experience a minor – or not so minor – car accident. Hopefully, the tips laid out above can help you deal with the results of an accident in the safest and most efficient way possible. Just remember that in the immediate aftermath of a car accident, you should try to stay as calm as possible and focus on safety for yourself and others. Worry about long-term consequences after that.