What Do I Do If I Am In a Car Accident?
Whether you drive a car, truck, or motorcycle you do not plan on being involved in a motor vehicle accident. So, when an accident occurs, it is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated. Many people have not given thought as to what they should do after an accident takes place, until it is too late. Being prepared now will not only help keep you safe, but it may also save you the aggravation of not having the proper information to help you recover for your injuries.
Below is a quick guide to help you when you are a victim of an auto accident:
Personal safety comes first.
While it is best to not move the vehicles until the police have arrived, there may be times when you should move your vehicle after a collision. If your vehicle is in the path of other cars on the road and poses a safety threat, it is usually safer to move it out of the way. Whether you move the vehicle out of the way will depend on the condition of the vehicle and your condition after the accident. Whether you move your vehicle to the side of the road or not, make sure you turn off the engine and engage your hazard lights. When fluids are leaking from the vehicle, such as gas or oil, or if you cannot move your vehicle, get as far away from your vehicle as possible.
Determine if you or your passengers are hurt.
Always seek help by calling 911. If anyone is injured relay this information to the 911 operator so that an ambulance is promptly dispatched. When relying on others to call 911, it is best to specifically ask one person in a group of people to call. If possible, try to stop profuse bleeding and avoid moving the victim as it could cause further injury.
When emergency personnel arrive, let them help you. Do not attempt to be brave or stoic. If you feel that you may be injured, let the ambulance take you and treat you. When injuries are promptly treated you increase the speed of your recovery.
Keep in mind that some injuries will be unnoticeable due to shock and adrenaline. Significant injuries may go undetected for several days. Make sure that you do not let your injuries fester. Seek medical attention if you are hurt. Obviously you should not seek medical attention if you are not injured just to try to create a case for settlement.
Survey the scene of the accident.
You should make yourself aware of important details of the accident. Note who the driver of the vehicle is and who his passengers are. Do the same for any other vehicles involved. Be sure to identify any potential witnesses to the police officer. Look around the vehicles to understand the severity of the accident – is there broken glass, car debris, or skid marks?
Secure relevant information.
Location Details – Write down where the accident happened. The best practice is to note the street intersection, nearest streets, or even a landmark. Note the date and time of the accident. As soon as you can, write down the weather, road, and traffic conditions. If you are able to do so, draw a diagram of the accident with the relative positions of the vehicles involved and their direction and speed of travel. The information you create is only created for the purpose of potential litigation and you should not give it to anyone but your attorney.
Driver – Once you have identified the driver, exchange information with him or her. Make sure that at the end of your exchange you have the driver’s name, address, phone number, employer’s info, driver’s license number, name of liability insurance company, and insurance policy number. Associate the driver with his or her vehicle by keeping track of the vehicle’s year, make, model, color, and license plate. If the driver makes any statements about the accident or his injuries, then promptly write them down. Lastly, the driver is not always the owner of the vehicle. Make sure you look at the Vehicle Registration Card to see the registered owner of the vehicle and the insurance company.
Witnesses – If there were potential witnesses to the accident, get their information as soon as you can. Secure their names, addresses, and phone numbers. Good Samaritans may stop to assist and will usually leave when emergency personnel arrive, so get to them quickly or lose them forever.
Photographs – Take photographs of the cars involved, the area of the accident, and the damage with your camera or mobile phone. Take as many pictures as you can from various angles and distances. Photographs are very helpful to your attorneys in preparing for your future personal injury case. Do not forget to take pictures of the other vehicles involved.
Listen and stay quiet – Listen carefully to what people at the scene of the accident are saying. This will allow you to locate potential witnesses, as well as obtain information that will help you if you decide to bring a lawsuit. In particular, you want to listen to the other driver to see if he or she admits fault or says things that show he or she did something wrong – like driving too fast or not seeing you. If you hear any helpful statements then promptly write them down. You should stay quiet at the scene of the accident as to how the accident occurred or relevant details like the speed of the vehicles. Your comments will not be helpful to you and will likely be used against you when you are trying to resolve the case. Never admit fault for the accident as an investigation may show differently.
Notify your insurance company.
Whether you believe the other driver was at fault or not, call your insurance company and report the accident. Your insurance company needs to know that an accident occurred, the extent of the damage to the vehicle, and the extent of your injuries. You may want to speak with an attorney before providing any written or recorded statements to your insurance company so that you understand the information you need to provide and so that you do not provide misleading information detrimental to your case.
Do not provide a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company.
You only have an obligation to provide information to your insurance company’s adjuster. Do not give a recorded or written statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Call your attorney to discuss the appropriateness of providing recorded statements.
Reach out to an attorney promptly.
The statute of limitations for auto accidents in Maryland is generally three years. When a government vehicle is involved, special rules apply which shorten the amount of time you have to bring an action. It is the best practice to notify a Maryland attorney promptly to determine the time limit for your claim.