If You’re Involved in a Traffic Accident…

by Terry Bryant

It’s difficult to prepare ourselves for the day we get in a car wreck. But the truth is, what you do the first few minutes after your accident has a disproportionate affect on how things will turn out for you. Here are a few standard hints to help you deal with damage to your car, issues of liability, and possible blowback when it comes to traffic citations and even if people (including you) are injured.

Never leave the scene. No one appears to be injured. So you think it’s OK to drive away, right? Actually, it’s a terrible idea, even if it’s a minor fender-bender. If it happened on a street, the law requires you to stop, check on the people in the other vehicle(s), exchange insurance information, and report it to law enforcement. If you don’t, you may be committing a crime. Even if the accident is on private property and no one is hurt, for your own legal protection, you still need to at least exchange insurance information.

Don’t fail to call the police. Again, if the accident happened on the street, you need to do this. The two most important reasons are: (1) Even if no one seems to be hurt, someone other than those involved needs to make that determination, and police are trained to look for subtle evidence of injuries; and (2) When called to the scene, the police will fill out an accident report, and for the purposes of liability, you need a copy of the report when making your insurance claim.

Don’t lose your cool. After a car crash, your emotions are usually running high. You might even be injured. Nevertheless, you must keep your temper in check, especially when dealing with the other driver, and if the wreck was their fault. The first thing to ask yourself is, “Are you alright?” Take some deep breaths and keep calm. You must be on an even keel to assess the situation and as you document the accident.

Don’t fail to fully document the accident. Generally, you’ll need the other driver’s name, address, insurance company name, and policy number. If any passengers are involved, get all their information too. Note the make, model, and color of the other driver’s vehicle and its license plate number. Were there any witnesses? Get their names and phone numbers. Use your smartphone to take some pictures of the vehicles involved and the crash site. They’ll come in handy during the claims process.

See a doctor quickly, even if you don’t think you’re hurt. A lot of accident injuries don’t exhibit symptoms until days or even weeks after the wreck, especially soft tissue injuries to the neck and back. So see your family doctor or head to some other healthcare center as soon as possible. One thing that mucks-up injury claims after a car wreck is not documenting an injury as soon as possible. This bad habit can end up with an injury claim filed down the road being denied by an insurance company because it believes you weren’t actually injured in the accident. Then you face an uphill battle trying to have your injury claim honored.

It’s difficult knowing what to do immediately after an accident. So maybe it’s a good idea to save this small bit of data in your smartphone “just in case.” Having it and not needing it beats the alternative. And if we can help you in any way after an accident, you are encouraged to contact the Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law Firm at 1 (800) 444-5000 or fill out our online contact form.