Keeping your head during the turmoil at the scene of a car crash is difficult. But staying calm and taking other steps after a car accident can help keep everyone safe and may help you in a personal injury lawsuit.
It may be difficult to follow this advice. But a calm demeanor will help you think clearly and avoid arguing with other motorists and witnesses.
If the damage is minor and the vehicle may be safely moved, drive it off the road. If you do not move the vehicle, turn on its hazard lights. Place warning triangles if you have them.
Make sure everyone without injuries gets off the road and keeps away from traffic. Do not move anyone with serious injuries unless they are in a location where they are in immediate danger.
Call 911 if anyone is injured and be sure to provide specific information on the crash location. If you cannot call, ask someone to contact first responders.
New Jersey law requires that drivers report accidents that involve anyone’s death or injury, or property damage over $500 within 10 days. But calling the police right away and asking them to come to the accident location helps assure that information is collected, and the crash scene is documented.
Police accident reports are also required for insurance claims and may be important in a lawsuit. Be sure to find out the procedures for obtaining these reports. Note the police officers’ names, their badge number, their phone number and the report number.
Ask for contact information for any willing witnesses and if they are willing to wait for the police. For accidents on a parking lot or other private property, ask the manager or security for a statement.
Never say sorry
It is appropriate to ask if anyone is hurt or needs assistance or engage in general small talk. But never apologize for any driving mistake or for anything related to the accident.
Do not accept immediate compensation from other drivers. Never promise not to contact your insurance company because you do not know the extent of injuries or damage. Do not sign any documents at the crash scene except if requested by the police.
It is important, however, to exchange names with the other drivers and insurance information. Because of the risk of identity theft, the National Association of insurance Commissioners recommends that you only provide the information on your insurance card which includes your full name, insurance company, insurance policy number and insurance company phone number.
If the other driver requests additional personal information, remain calm and wait until the police arrive.
Document the scene
Use your personal electronic device to photograph the vehicles in the accident and their license plates, any damaged property, the accident scene, skid marks, traffic signs and anything else related to the accident. Write down the date and time of the accident and weather conditions.
Write down any details of the accident when it is still fresh in your mind. Keep a diary of everything that occurs after the accident such as doctor visits, injuries, and repairs.
See a doctor after the accident to assure that any injuries are treated and do not worsen. At times, pain and other symptoms do not occur until later. Medical records may also be important as evidence of injury in a lawsuit.
Keep all receipts for these visits. It is also important to have any documents concerning repairs to your vehicle or other property.
Attorneys can assist you with your dealings with insurance companies. They can also pursue your right to compensation in a lawsuit.