If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know how frazzling and chaotic the whole situation can be. Even if you walk away from the wreck unharmed, there are still several steps you’ll need to take in order to properly handle the situation.
As you may know, there can be serious legal consequences for leaving the scene of an accident prematurely. As long as you follow the 10 steps outlined below, you and your claim should be safe from any legal repercussions.
#1 - Remain on the scene.
Fleeing the scene of an accident with no injuries can result in a misdemeanor charge, a hefty fine, and jail time. If there are injuries as a result of an accident and you flee the scene, you may face a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the injuries.
#2 - Keep the scene safe.
Do whatever you can to prevent further accidents. That may mean setting up flares if you have them or turning on your hazard lights.
If your vehicle is in the way of traffic, snap a few photos of the collided cars from various angles before moving them out of the way.
#3 - Contact the authorities.
Even if no one is seriously hurt, it’s in your best interest to have the police come and make an accident report. Property damage only claims can still significantly benefit from having a police report.
#4 - Tell the truth and don’t speculate.
When you provide your side of the story to the police officer, be sure to express exactly what happened as you remember it. If there are certain facts you’re unaware of, be honest with the officer and say you don’t know. Avoid making speculations or assumptions about any elements of the crash. If the officer asks if you are hurt and you are unsure, tell that to the officer rather than saying no. Some injuries take time to materialize, so don’t say that you’re unhurt before getting checked out by a medical professional.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the other parties involved in the accident are providing truthful accounts of the event.
#5 - Take photographs.
Use your phone to take pictures of the accident scene. If possible, try to snap some photos of the following:
- The entire accident scene
- Close-ups and full frames of vehicular damage
- Close-ups and full frames of any visible injuries sustained
- The other person’s face (use discretion as this can easily get awkward)
#6 - Swap information.
The investigating officer at the scene will likely do this, but it’s a good idea to do it yourself, too. Collect the following information from witnesses as well as anyone involved in the crash, including drivers and passengers:
- Phone number
Additionally, it’s helpful to take photos of the following documents from the other driver(s) involved:
- Insurance card (front and back)
- Driver’s license (front and back)
Before the police leave, make sure you obtain the police report number so you can retrieve it when it becomes available (usually 10 business days from the date of the crash).
#7 - Seek medical care.
Sometimes, certain injuries can take time to materialize. During the initial shock of the accident, you may not feel any pain, but that doesn’t mean you’ll walk away with no injuries. That’s why it’s in your best interest to seek medical care right away, even if you don’t feel seriously hurt. If there’s a chance you’ve sustained any injuries, do yourself a favor and get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible after the crash.
#8 - Seek legal counsel before contacting the insurance company.
Before you report the accident to the insurance company, it’s in your best interest to seek the assistance of a skilled car accident attorney. Speaking to the insurance company before consulting a lawyer can seriously damage your claim. The right attorney will be able to help you provide your statement in a way that doesn’t harm your case.
#9 - Keep everything organized.
Keep all documentation related to your accident neatly organized and in one place. Doing so will be very helpful to your case and your attorney will thank you. The information you should hold onto includes:
- Claim number
- Claim’s adjuster handling the claim
- Names and phone numbers of all relevant contacts
- Receipts for a rental car
- Medical documentation related to your injuries from the crash
- All other expenses you incurred due to the wreck
#10 - Report the accident to the insurance company.
In order to file a claim with the insurance company to recover damages related to the accident, you must provide an accident report. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do this over the phone. While that is one option, you also have the right to provide your statement in writing or you may ask your attorney to provide it for you.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident due to another’s negligence, you may be owed compensation. Let our team see if we can help you recover it. Don’t delay—call our office right away with any questions you may have.