As a responsible driver, you likely try to do everything you can to avoid a traffic accident. Unfortunately, sometimes even the most careful drivers become the victims of an auto accident. Whether this is your first car accident or your fifth, it is natural to be a bit overwhelmed by the feelings running through your mind. If you find yourself overcome with worry, take a few seconds to gather your thoughts and then follow the ten steps below.
STEP ONE: IF YOUR INJURY IS SERIOUS, CALL 911 RIGHT AWAY. DO NOT TRY TO MOVE.
Protecting your health and well-being top the list of the most important steps to take after a car accident. If you sustain a serious or life-threatening injury, then do not try to move. Examples of life-threatening injuries are those that inhibit your ability to breathe, produce intolerable pain, or cause you to bleed uncontrollably. If you try to move, you run the risk of exacerbating these injuries. Instead, call 911 and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
STEP TWO: IF YOUR INJURIES ARE NON-LIFE-THREATENING, MOVE YOUR CAR TO THE SHOULDER.
Leaving your car in the path of oncoming traffic can put you at risk for further injury. If your injuries are non-life-threatening and you can still operate your car safely, then carefully move it out of harm’s way. If you are on the interstate, move your vehicle to the closest shoulder. If you are not on a highway, try to pull into an adjacent parking lot. Be sure to turn on your hazard lights to alert police and other drivers to proceed with caution.
STEP THREE: CALL THE POLICE TO REPORT YOUR TRAFFIC ACCIDENT.
There are 6,452,000 motor vehicle accidents reported to the police every year. Police officers in Virginia and across America are trained to take action and document the details of your car crash. Law enforcement officials to arrive as soon as possible to complete a traffic crash report or car accident form. You can contact the Virginia DMV to request a copy of this paperwork.
“The Department of Motor Vehicles maintains the official record of all reportable crashes occurring within the Commonwealth. Crashes may be reported by law enforcement (FR300P) or an individual may also report a crash to DMV.” – Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
STEP FOUR: CONTACT A CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER AND FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS.
After you seek medical help and report your accident, your next move should be to contact a car accident lawyer. Talking to a trusted attorney is better than having a car accident information checklist in front of you. An attorney can help ease your worries by staying on the phone with you while you wait for help to arrive. A lawyer may also ask you some questions and give you a series of simple suggestions to follow while you are at the crash scene.
STEP FIVE: EXCHANGE CONTACT INFORMATION IF ANOTHER DRIVER IS INVOLVED
If another vehicle is involved in your traffic collision, request the driver’s contact information. Try to avoid talking about the details of the accident or discussing who is at fault, as this could cause the other driver to become angry or try to avoid sharing their contact information with you. Finally, take note of any damage to your car and any other vehicles involved in the accident, as this information may prove to be helpful as your case unfolds.
STEP SIX: TAKE A FEW PHOTOS OF THE ACCIDENT SCENE
You may have a great memory, but photos often provide a much better account of what transpired than your memory – especially if you have sustained an injury or are under stress. You can use your cell phone to take pictures. Just remember to remain safely out of the way of oncoming traffic while you take photos.
In addition to taking pictures, take some notes or send yourself a time-stamped message containing everything that transpired. Even if you think some details may not be relevant, it is better to make a note of them in case questions arise later. While police officers are trained to complete a traffic crash report at the accident scene location, they may not capture some key details that may prove to be relevant in your case.
STEP SEVEN: ASK ANY WITNESSES TO MAKE A NOTE OF WHAT THEY SAW.
“Remember the value of possible witnesses to the accident and politely ask them for their contact information so that both your insurance company and if necessary the police, can interview them at a later date.” – Chad Catacchio, Answer Financial
If there are passers-by or other drivers who have witnessed your automobile accident, try to gather their contact details before they leave the accident scene. Also, ask them if they would please write down or make a voice recording of what they saw. This information may prove to be helpful in establishing that another driver was negligent or that you were following traffic laws when your accident occurred.
STEP EIGHT: IF YOU SEEK MEDICAL CARE, KEEP A COPY OF ALL OF YOUR RECORDS.
Whether you spent a week in the hospital or just a few hours in an urgent care clinic, it is wise to keep a copy of all of your medical reports. Also, be sure to track your medical expenditures, including any money spent on medications and mental health counseling. Finally, if your doctor advises you not to work, then ask that he put his recommendation in writing for your employer. Then keep a copy for your own records in case it is required later.
STEP NINE: KEEP CAREFUL TRACK OF YOUR VEHICLE REPAIRS.
“Body repairs can range from small dings and dents to massive repairs. Repair costs can vary widely. Most estimates put the cost to repair body damage anywhere from $50 to $7,500 or more….In general, the more severe the accident and the resulting body damage, the more you’ll end up paying.” – Jacqueline DeMarco, Lending Tree
As you start exploring repair options for your vehicle, you might be surprised by how quickly car costs and repair bills can add up. In addition to keeping track of this information for insurance purposes, you may need a summary of the repair costs if you decide to seek compensation for your damages.
STEP TEN: STORE A COPY OF YOUR PAPERWORK AND PHOTOS IN A SAFE LOCATION.
Be sure to make multiple copies of all documents and photos related to your case. Keep one copy stored in a safe or a lockbox, and another copy stored with your attorney. You may also wish to keep additional copies on hand in case they are requested.
THE BOTTOM LINE ON HANDLING CAR ACCIDENTS
The average American can expect to be involved in three or four motor vehicle accidents over the course of a lifetime. The best thing you can do to contend with this unfortunate statistic is to drive with care and to know the steps to take if you are involved in an auto accident. By following the steps above, you can protect your well-being while gathering relevant information that may be required if you were the victim of negligence. If you have been involved in a car accident, we urge you to contact us at the Joel Bieber Firm for a complimentary consultation. We will talk to you about your accident and advise you regarding the best course of action to take. We look forward to providing you with the legal support you deserve.