What to do if You are Involved in a Car Accident
Traffic mishaps are an inevitable and unfortunate fact of life. If you find yourself in one, we offer some guiding principles you should consider. A proper reaction can reduce injuries and costs as well as accelerate the clean-up and repair process. The following are some simple suggestions to make an accident as painless as possible.
First: Plan to deal with an accident before one ever happens:
Keep an emergency kit in a convenient place in your car. In addition to a first aid kit, it should include flares, warning triangles, and a disposable camera; it is also a good idea to keep a pen and paper for taking notes. It is recommended that a charged mobile phone remain in a car at all times. There should be a medical emergency card with information about who to contact in the event of an emergency and, if necessary, any medical allergies or conditions that may require special attention if there are serious injuries.
Second: What to do in the event of an accident:
- Keep safety first: Remain calm. Most police departments recommend that drivers who have no serious injury in minor fender benders move cars out of the way of traffic promptly; leaving an automobile in traffic can lead to more accidents and increase the possibility of further injury. The engine should be turned off and parking brake should be engaged. Emergency flashers should be turned on. If possible have flares and emergency triangles out to warn oncoming traffic of the problem ahead. Assist the injured. Dial 911 if anyone is injured or any vehicle is disabled. Clear persons from the area if you smell gas or if a vehicle is on fire.
- Exchange information: After the accident, exchange the following information: name, address and phone number of the drivers and owners of all vehicles involved if different from the drivers; contact information of any passengers; the insurance companies; policy numbers; drivers’ license number; and license plate number of each vehicle. If a driver’s name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is to the owner. Also make a written description of each car, including year, make, model, and color and the exact location of the collision and how it happened.
- Document the accident: Identify all possible witnesses and be sure to get their contact information. If possible photograph the accident area and the vehicles involved so as to get the overall context of the accident. Make notes about the accident including: what happened; the time of day; whether it was dark or light; what the road conditions were; whether the road was dry or wet; and whether there were any traffic control devices. Notes about the accident should also include impressions about the condition of the people involved in the accident and a diagram of the accident scene.
Third: After the Accident:
Report the accident to your insurance provider. If the accident involves a death or an injury or if a vehicle has been towed, Pennsylvania law requires that a Driver’s Accident Report be filed within five days of the accident. If there was any kind of injury, seek medical attention immediately and follow-up care if directed to do so.
Be polite and courteous to all involved, and cooperate with the authorities. You should not talk about who is at fault with the other driver. Never admit fault or apologize even if you believe that the accident was your fault. (You could be wrong.) If police are called to the scene, you should give the officer an account of the circumstances and the accident but preferably not in the presence of other persons. The police may not force you to give details of the accident or admit blame, and you have the right to speak with an attorney before making any statements. If the accident is serious, consult your attorney as soon as possible.
Finally, maintain a diary for as long as you have injuries that are not healed. Together with the strong suggestion above that you document the accident, a diary can be invaluable if litigation results. It is amazing how memories fade and actually revise the account of the facts unintentionally. We see it all the time. Nothing lends credibility to the account of an accident and its aftermath more than notes made at the time of your experience.
For more information about what to do before or after an automobile accident contact our office.
– J. Ken Butera