If you have ever been involved in a car accident, then you understand how stressful they can be. Crashes typically happen very quickly and of course, unexpectedly. Afterwards, the stress of this unanticipated event may lead to confusion as to what steps to take to protect your rights.
Before Leaving the Accident Scene
Make sure you follow these important steps before leaving the scene after a car accident:
- Stay at the scene – It is against the law to leave the scene of a car accident right away. Indeed, leaving the scene may lead to criminal penalties for “hit and run.” Make sure you remain at the scene until you have spoken with the other driver and a police report is filled out.
- Check for injuries – Check with any passengers in the car to see if anyone has suffered a serious injury. If so, call for medical assistance immediately.
- Exchange information – Make sure you get the following information from the other driver: name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, registration, and insurance information. Also, take down the contact information of any witnesses who can support your version of what happened.
- Call the police – This is especially important if you are not at fault for the car accident. Call the police and ask that an officer be sent to the scene to fill out a report. A police report indicating that the other driver was at fault can significantly help your chances of a successful recovery during your car accident claim.
- Take photos – Take photos of any property damage to your vehicle before leaving the scene. You may also want to take photos of any evidence at the accident scene, such as skid marks, other property that may have been damaged, etc which may support your version of what happened. Any camera, even one on a cell phone, will be sufficient.
- Do not admit fault – This is very important. Do not admit fault — apologize, or otherwise try to explain your actions, to anyone without first consulting an attorney, even if you believe you are at fault for the accident. This admission can potentially be used against you at a later date. It is appropriate, however, to find out if anyone else might need medical assistance.
After Leaving the Accident Scene
Once you leave the accident scene, it is important to take the following steps:
- Seek medical attention – It is a good idea to get examined by your doctor even if you don’t think you have any serious injuries. Often, car accident injury symptoms manifest over the course of days and even weeks following the accident. It is important to document that these injuries were in fact caused in the course of a car accident by giving your doctor a complete history as to the onset and progression of your injuries.
- Call your insurance company – You must inform your insurance company that you have been involved in a car accident within a reasonable time period. Be truthful with them when answering any questions, but do not admit fault without consulting a car accident lawyer first.
- Consult an experienced lawyer – It is important to consult an experienced car accident lawyer at once. This way, your lawyer can advise you of your rights and begin building your case while the evidence is fresh.