Odds are that you will be in at least one motor vehicle accident in your lifetime. Prepare yourself for the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident by following these steps to preserve your rights.
Six Simple Rules – What To Do After An Auto Accident
1. Do Not Drive Away From the Scene of the Accident
First, driving away from the scene of an accident will expose you to criminal charges in Pennsylvania. 75 Pa.C.S.A § 3743. Those charges can include a fine of up to $385 and a maximum of 90 days in prison. You must remain at the scene of any motor vehicle collision.
If you are involved in an automobile accident and you drive away from the collision, you may expose yourself to civil liability for damages, whether your driving caused the accident or not. By driving away from the scene of the accident, you also jeopardize your opportunity to receive compensation for your property damage.
2. Call 911 Emergency
Report the accident. You will need documentation of the incident. The temptation to shake hands and enter an agreement to let the insurance company handle the accident can leave you in a problematic position.
The other driver’s insurance information may be false or expired; you may be stuck paying the deductible and found at fault. An attorney will have an easier time negotiating your claim if the wreck information is included in a police report.
3. Do Not Lose Your Composure
Take a deep breath, check to see if any passengers in your car are hurt or need medical attention, and begin to assess the situation. Remain calm. Ask the drivers and passengers in the other vehicles if they need medical attention, but do not apologize and admit liability.
An apology can be used as an admission of liability in a civil action. That means you may be held responsible for the accident if you apologize to the other driver. You do not know what the other driver was doing in the car at the time of the accident, and it is very possible that the accident was his/her fault. For example, the other driver may have been putting on makeup, texting with friends, talking on the phone, or eating at the time of the accident.
The same rules apply to your passengers. Ask you passengers if they are okay, or if they need medical attention, but do not apologize.
4. Document the Accident As Best You Can
Look around for other drivers or pedestrians who saw the collision. If you have a pen and some paper in your glove box, take notes. Ask witnesses what they saw, and ask for their names and contact information. Look around for any cameras. In Philadelphia, you may find cameras on the street lights. Note the location of any cameras and the direction that the cameras are facing.
Finally, take pictures of the scene of the accident. If you don’t have a camera, use the camera on your phone. Make sure to include pictures of your vehicle, and any other vehicles that were involved in the collision. Do not limit yourself to pictures of the area where the vehicles have come to rest. Make sure to take photographs of the area where the collision began. Look to the road for skid marks; take pictures of tire marks.
If you were hit by a truck, be sure to take photographs of all the company names you can identify on the truck. Take pictures of the tractor-trailer, and the DOT numbers.
5. Do Not Turn Down Medical Attention if you are Injured
This is not the time to show off how tough you are. The only way for you to recover for your injuries is if they are documented in your medical records. For example, what you believe to be a bad headache following an automobile collision may turn out to be a concussion. The first concussion in a series of many concussions that keeps you from going to work makes your ears ring, and is indicative of brain injury.
An insurance company and defense lawyer are less likely to believe that your serious medical condition resulted from an automobile collision when they are not able to draw a clear line from the accident to your injuries. Some injuries get worse over time: the key is being able to highlight the connection between the impact from the collision and your present injuries.
Along those same lines, it is your responsibility to follow up with the hospital/doctor’s treatment recommendations. You should read and follow the discharge instructions provided to you in the hospital emergency room. Follow-up with your primary care physician; schedule an appointment with a specialist; do whatever is required of you to get yourself in good health.
6. Call Your Lawyer – Auto Accident Attorney
We’ve all seen the advertisements suggesting that the insurance company employees are our friends; we’re in good hands, protected from mayhem, etc… Sure, they’re not bad people; but that’s not the point.
Ultimately, the primary concern of any insurance company is to make a profit. An insurance company may be obligated to provide you with medical coverage for injuries that you sustain in an auto accident, but the money is limited, and the insurance companies are going to cut corners whenever they can. In some instances, your insurance company may want you to give a recorded statement about what happened in the accident to keep from paying out on all the damages that you are entitled to recover. For example, your treatments may be deemed not “medically necessary” after you receive them, and you can be stuck with the bills.
Under no circumstances should you contact the other driver’s insurance company without the assistance of an attorney. Get legal advice before undertaking this course of action.
Paul Lauricella (Google+)