If you drive long enough, you’re bound to have a few car accidents. Most will probably be minor events. There might be a little vehicle damage, but no injuries. However, there is always the potential for a serious car accident. Even the safest of drivers can make mistakes. You also can’t count on other drivers to be safe.
With car accidents being part of driving, motorists should consider what they will do when an accident occurs. The moments after a collision can be tense and stressful. However, the way you handle an accident can have long-term consequences.
When asked, a car accident lawyer in New Orleans said, “What you do after a traffic accident can have significant implications. Your actions can impact your ability to recover compensation for injuries. In some cases, what you do after an accident can come with criminal liability. This is why drivers should have a plan for what they will do after an accident.”
How should drivers act in the event of a car accident? The following are some steps to follow if you get in a car accident.
Stay at the Scene
Staying at the scene is essential. Different states have varying laws about leaving the scene of an accident, but it is a smart idea to stay. Fleeing an accident can come with significant criminal penalties. The penalties can also get worse if the accident is serious.
However, the need to stay at the scene does not mean you should leave vehicles where they are. If the vehicles are an obstruction or hazard on the road, try to move them out of the way. If moving them is unsafe or not possible, it is okay to leave them on the road.
Check for Injuries
Traffic accidents often come with injuries. Some might not be evident right away. Start by checking yourself for injuries. After that, ask the people in your vehicle if they are alright. If any person is injured in the accident, your next step should be to call for an ambulance.
Tending to injuries should be the highest priority after a car accident. However, you shouldn’t try to move any person with serious injuries. If someone can’t move on their own, wait for emergency responders.
Contact Other Parties
Once you have assessed your injuries and those of the people in your car, it is time to contact people in other vehicles. Go to the other vehicle and see if anyone needs help or is injured. If they are injured or need help, call for an ambulance. The same should be done for any pedestrians involved in the accident. Check them for injuries and call for help if needed.
You might also want to ask other drivers if they can move their vehicles out of the roadway. It might also be a good idea to discuss going to the side of the road so you can handle the accident safely away from traffic.
Call the Police
If you call for an ambulance, there is a good chance police will be dispatched to the scene as well. However, you might still want a law enforcement response after an accident that doesn’t involve injuries.
Calling police might also be a requirement depending on the state or the severity. Along with that, police can make a record of the accident. The police record can be a vital piece of information if you need to file an insurance claim or have a personal injury lawsuit.
Once you have gone through all the previous steps, you should exchange information with other drivers. Get the names and insurance information of the other drivers involved in the accident. You should also get their license plate numbers and the make and model of the vehicles. You’ll also need the contact information of the other drivers.
Beyond getting information from other drivers, you might want to look for any witnesses at the scene. This not only includes any bystanders, but you should also ask for information from the passengers in other vehicles. Get their names and contact information. Witnesses can help with insurance claims. They can also help if there is a lawsuit after the accident.
Don’t Talk About the Accident
It is important to make contact with the other drivers and witnesses after an accident. However, you should limit the conversation to seeing if they need help and getting their information. You should not discuss the accident in any way.
Do not talk about how it occurred or what you think happened. These things are hard to determine in the moments after an accident. Even if someone else starts talking about it or trying to blame you, just tell them you can’t talk about the accident.
Take Notes and Photos
Having a record of the accident can be useful. It can help with insurance claims and lawsuits if necessary. That’s why you should keep a small notebook in your car for taking notes. Beyond taking notes about the accident, you can also get pictures to document the scene. You’ll also want to talk with the police about getting a copy of their report.
Start by writing down the location and time of day. Note the direction different vehicles were traveling when the accident occurred. You should also mention the weather and lighting. Beyond that, get photos of the vehicles, making sure to capture images of damage. If you see marks in the road, take pictures of them as well.
Contact Your Insurer
You may want to report the accident to your insurer. Depending on your policy, insurance could pay for vehicle damage or medical bills. The sooner you report the accident, the faster your insurer can start the claims process. Along with that, the adjuster might be able to provide advice at the scene to help you manage the aftermath of the car accident.
Go to a Doctor
It might be a good idea to see a doctor even if you don’t need an ambulance. Not all car accident injuries are obvious at the scene. Some injuries only become apparent a few hours after the event. There are even some injuries that may take days or weeks to become evident.
Seeing a doctor after the accident ensures prompt treatment for injuries that may be less obvious. By seeing a doctor sooner, you can limit the damage and achieve a better outcome. It also makes it easier to connect the injuries to the accident if you need to file a claim or lawsuit.
Having a plan for what to do after an accident can help you in many ways. It can protect your rights to compensation, ensure a better medical outcome, and guard against criminal liability. As an additional step, it might also be a good idea to consult an attorney. An attorney can advise you on your rights to compensation if you were injured.