Whether it’s our daily office commute or cruising around a new town on vacation, we spend a lot of time in our cars. While we should always take basic safety precautions like wearing a seatbelt and driving defensively, accidents do happen—and often. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, Virginia has an average of over 100,000 crashes per year.
Do you know what to do if you are involved in such an accident? Follow these steps to minimize this difficult situation.
1. Safety First
If you find yourself on a busy road or highway when the accident occurs, move your vehicle to a safe place if it is driveable. Failure to pull over to a safer spot might cause further damage to your car and increase the risk of injury to yourself or others—do not assume that oncoming traffic will be able to see you in time.
After you and your vehicle are in a safe place, check to see if you and your passengers have any injuries. Even if you do not, it is important to stay at the scene of the accident. In most instances, simply leaving the scene of the accident (aka a “hit-and-run”) is against the law and will complicate any aftermath from the accident.
2. Call the Police
Many people in accidents believe the police should be called only if there is some sort of disagreement or altercation with the other driver. The police should be called for any accident, as a report needs to be filed to help with any sort of insurance claim down the road.
Speaking to the police can seem extreme, but an accident report is usually quite simple. It will include:
- The names and basic information of both drivers
- Confirmation of insurance information for both parties
- Documentation of what vehicles were involved in the accident
- Perspectives of both drivers regarding what caused the collision
- The officer’s evaluation of who is at fault and whether anyone was ticketed
This final point is especially important to have on record if the accident results in any type of lawsuit.
3. Find and Accept Medical Help
Fortunately, many individuals will simply be able to walk away from the scene of an accident, but some experience pain and injuries after the fact. This is why it’s important to be checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible, regardless of how you feel immediately following an accident.
Not every car crash requires a 911 call. Paramedics are usually called in the instance of immediate, noticeable injuries. However, no matter what your physical status at the scene of the accident, you should always go to your doctor’s office or an emergency room as soon as possible. Medical records serve as evidence during insurance claims and legal matters.
4. Keep Conversation to a Minimum
It is normal to express care and concern for those in the other vehicle, but it is important to keep conversation to a minimum at the scene of an accident. Even the most casual apology can come back as a defense against you in a court of law or prevent an insurance company from paying out on your claim. Save any discussion for the police report.
If you are involved in an accident, you have the right to film any activity or conversation that takes place. If the other party tries to leave or place blame on you, remain calm and let them know that the police are en route.
Again, try not to apologize for the accident. This can be interpreted as assumed blame, and this will make any legal battle or insurance claim much more difficult.
5. Take Pictures of the Vehicles
If there is any sort of damage to either car, take pictures. Do not rely on the police to provide evidence you can use for your insurance claim—take matters into your own hands by photographing both vehicles so you can provide an accurate report to your insurance company. Your photos may also serve as a defense should you end up in court.
Include in your photos:
- The back of the other vehicle, including the license plate
- Any damage to either car, even if it’s minor
- Any environmental damage—a chipped curb, plant debris, skid marks in the road, etc.
6. Exchange Information
It is a good idea to exchange personal information with the other driver. This should include their full name, phone number, license plate number, and the name of their insurance company. This will save you time in any follow-up conversation with the police or claims department and also proves that you were organized and of sound mind at the time of the accident.
7. Contact an Attorney
This is an important final step and should not be delayed. You can expect to be called by the other driver’s insurance company following the accident, and this call will come sooner than you think. You do not want to be unprepared if you find yourself contacted by their attorney or an insurance adjuster who is looking for a way to unfairly reduce or deny your claim. You need a qualified personal injury lawyer who understands how collision claims work.
Have You Been Injured In Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia car accident law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation.