Car accidents occur on a daily basis in the United States. In fact, close to 4 million people are injured in car accidents each year. 35,000 people died in car accidents in 2013 alone. For teens, these numbers should be particularly alarming as teen drivers are three times as likely to be in a fatal accident compared to other drivers. Aside from age, location can increase the likelihood of being in a car accident also. There are 30% more car accidents along rural roads compared to urban roadways. Whether young or old, on a rural road or city street, any car accident should be handled in a specific way. There are steps every driver should follow and be aware of in the event of any kind of car accident.
1. Assess Medical Needs and Get Help. The very first thing anyone in a car accident should do is assess if people involved need medical help. If anyone is injured or there is the potential for unseen injuries, such as a head injury, call 911 immediately.
2. Get Out of Harm’s Way. If a vehicle is still in the roadway, it could get hit again as can any victims in the roadway. You should try to move any vehicle that can be moved off the road and out of the way for the safety of everyone around. Many people become victims in chain reaction crashes because of accidents that are not cleared as they should be.
3. Call Police. Once everyone is securely off the road and medical help is on the way, call the police. You will want to be clear about the exact location and nature of the scene, such as how many vehicles and type of crash that needs to be assessed. When calling police, do not verbally assign blame or opinions about culpability. Let police assess the scene on their own.
4. Cooperate and Exchange Information. The police will assess the damages and file a report as to what occurred. It is up to you to get the other driver’s information to protect yourself. This information should include contact information, insurance information, address, and also contact information for witnesses. When exchanging this information and talking to police on the scene, it is important to remember that you should not verbally accept blame even if you were at fault.
5. Take Notes of Your Own. Even though police are skilled and trained as to how to assess and report on an accident scene, they are human. Plus, it will be you, not the police, who needs to worry about damages and any potential fight with an insurance company. The best way to protect yourself, your rights, and ensure the case is handled fairly is to document the facts yourself. Do not rely on your memory later, especially if you are injured. Memories can change and be difficult to decipher within hours of an accident. Whether it was minor or major, you need to write down your own version of events as soon as it is safe to do so.
6. Contact Your Insurance Company. After getting to your destination safely and documenting the events, contact your insurance company and explain the situation. They will explain the time frame for dealing with damages and also what all may happen as a result of the accident. While you should let them know everything, you should not discuss a settlement with your or the other driver’s insurance company just yet. Too many people agree to a settlement or openly admit culpability when they shouldn’t.
7. Contact a Car Accident Attorney. It is never a good idea to accept a settlement or admit being at fault without the guidance and support of a skilled car accident attorney. An attorney can best evaluate the situation and evaluate what kind of damages are possible. A car accident attorney by your side can greatly increase the chances of getting a fair settlement that will cover medical care and other expenses related to the car accident.
Being prepared for a car accident by having an emergency kit and roadside kit on hand is wise. However, being prepared will not always prevent a car accident from happening. Knowing the proper steps to take in the event of an accident is the best way to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.
By George C. Malonis