Spring is coming and with it more driving for scenic trips, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, June weddings, and then summer vacations. Sadly, there will also be literally millions of motorists who suffer accidents on American roads in the months ahead.
For the protection of themselves and their families, the best thing those motorists can do before a trip is to prepare. Getting a car inspected, checking tire pressures and treads, and packing a set of cones, warning triangles and/or flares in the trunk can save time and lives. It is also a good idea to take your cell phone and/or a camera on any trip, along with a pen and paper in your glove box.
If, despite your preparation and safe driving habits, you are unfortunate enough to be in a motor vehicle accident, then you will need to take at least 10 steps to insure that damages are minimized and your rights are secured.
Those steps should include:
1. Getting Out of Harm’s Way. If the damage is minor, cars should be moved to the breakdown lane or a grassy shoulder out of the way of oncoming traffic. In a more serious accident, that may not be possible or even advisable. In any event, you or an uninjured occupant should – as safety permits – utilize any traffic cones, road flares or warning triangles you have in your trunk so as to keep vehicles in the area away from the wreckage. If possible and safe to do so, you should take photos of the vehicles and the scene before the cars are towed or moved away.
2. Exchange Information. Drivers and/or owners of the cars involved should exchange their names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance companies, policy numbers, license plate numbers, driver’s license numbers, and vehicle ownership information. You should also record the make, model and year of each car involved.
3. Document the Accident and Conditions. Use a smart phone, camera and/or pen and paper to record the exact location, the relative positions of the vehicles, the road conditions, and any potential accident factors.
4. Get Names of All Witnesses. If possible, you should obtain the names and contact information for responding police, firemen, emergency medical personnel, passengers and other potential witnesses to the accident or its aftermath. Asking for a copy of any official accident reports is also helpful.
5. Notify Police. In many states, you are required by law to contact police before you leave the scene of an accident, and in some cases, they may advise you to remain at the accident site until they arrive. Even if you think nobody is hurt, it is wise to check with officers to see what you should do and to invite them to survey the scene and make a report.
6. File a Report of Your Own. In many instances, police officers will not respond to an accident scene unless there are injuries involved, but you should still file an accident report of your own with the police and your own insurance company. Police stations, departments of motor vehicle safety, and insurance companies are all likely to have forms that you can use for filing reports.
7. Call Your Insurance Agent. Your insurance policy will likely require you to make a prompt report of any accident or claim, and your insurance agent can help you to understand what you need to do to preserve your rights with regard to any potential claims – by yourself or others. Your agent can also help you to understand the limits of your coverage, and can advise you of possible scams or dangers involving certain types of accidents.
8. Call a Qualified Attorney. Often, an attorney who is experienced at dealing with motor vehicle accidents will understand your legal rights and your rights under insurance policies as well or better than an insurance agent. The attorney can also answer questions for you about medical bills, proper medical assistance, and subtle injuries you might have and not know it. The attorney can often steer you in the direction of helpful non-legal resources as well.
9. See a Qualified Doctor. You might decide, after speaking with a lawyer, to get checked for often-missed signs of head trauma, brain injury or ligament/soft tissue injuries. Early and capable medical attention can be the difference between a tragic and a painless result.
10. Do NOT Discuss Fault. Many people make the mistake of apologizing at the scene of an accident in a way that sounds like an admission of fault. It is possible to show care and concern for others without making any admissions against your own interest. Even if you think you are at fault, there may be superseding causational factors involved in the accident of which you are not aware. On the other hand, if someone makes an admission of any kind (such as an admission about how much they were drinking) then you should write that down and report it to your insurance agent and/or lawyer.
If you have been in an accident and need legal assistance, do not hesitate to call our office at (312) 477-2500 to speak with a qualified personal injury attorney. You can also check out our Website for more information about our law firm, Cogan & Power, P.C.
Sourcing: various web sites associated with insurance companies and my own experience