It is not easy to stay level-headed after an accident, especially when there are injuries and property damage. Some people may feel compelled to exit their vehicles and angrily confront the other drivers, but this can be counterproductive, as well as dangerous. The safer option is to call 911 right away, and to take a moment to assess what happened.
Should I Stay in My Car?
The answer to this depends on where the car has stopped. If it is in a lane on a busy highway, it should be moved onto a shoulder or other spot that is away from traffic. Leaving the scene is against the law, so it should only be moved out of danger and not be driven away. Doing that can lead to criminal penalties if it is determined to be a hit-and-run case.
Staying in the car also depends on whether or not anyone is injured. This takes priority, so everyone involved should be checked for injuries. People who have back pain, neck pain, serious wounds, or are unconscious should not be moved, unless their lives are in immediate danger.
It can take a while for law enforcement officers to arrive at an accident scene, so the drivers can exchange information in the meantime if everyone stays calm. Taking a picture of the other vehicle and its license plate as soon as possible is a good idea too, because it is not unusual for at-fault drivers to flee. Cell phones can also be used to snap photos of skid marks, road conditions, and vehicle damage.
Both drivers and any passengers can then exchange their names, phone numbers, email addresses, drivers’ license numbers, and insurance information, and some of this can be done by taking pictures. Showing concern for others involved in the crash and being cooperative can help smooth this process along; this is not the time to make accusations or apologize for causing the accident.
Also, if there are any witnesses at the scene, they can be asked to share their contact information. They could provide valuable evidence later on if there are issues with an insurance claim. The insurance company should also be called in a timely manner.
What Do I Tell the Police?
Once the police arrive, they should only be given the facts. They will ask if medical assistance is required, and they can be told if help is already on the way. Refusing an ambulance is not always a good idea, since there could be serious injuries that are not immediately apparent. Going to an emergency room may be best in some cases; otherwise, getting checked out by a doctor within a day or two is recommended.
The police department will prepare an accident report, but this will not be done at the scene. If the officers at the scene do not provide a card with their name, badge number, and information on how to obtain the report, this should be requested. Accident reports are essential for pursuing car accident claims.
Dealing with Insurance Companies
Unless the accident only resulted in a minor fender-bender, the auto insurance provider should be contacted as soon as possible. Even if the other driver was clearly at-fault, the victim’s own insurance company may be able to provide needed benefits. When speaking to them, sticking to the facts is the best way to go. One way to build a case is to keep comprehensive records of medical expenses and vehicle repairs caused by the accident.
The law does not require people to communicate with the other insurance company and doing so could be detrimental to a claim. Anything said could be used to reduce the claim’s value or lead that insurance company to refuse to pay. However, if the at-fault driver refuses to contact their insurance company, or lied to them, the victim may have to ask their insurance provider to reach out.
As this process moves along, it is also a good idea to keep records of all interactions with both insurance companies. Things can get complicated and frustrating with insurance claims, so writing down what happens can provide some clarity. Also, insurance companies try to pay out as little damages as they can, so if they are not responsive, the victim may have to contact an experienced car accident lawyer.
When Should I Call a Lawyer?
When the injuries and/or property damage are significant, or if there are questions about who caused the crash, legal representation from a car accident attorney could be warranted. Even if a car accident victim believes that another driver was clearly at-fault, the insurance companies will not necessarily agree.
Insurance claims can take long, and medical bills can pile up. In addition, most auto body shops will not perform repairs until they have received payment, and rental cars can be expensive. This can all be very overwhelming to contend with, especially when someone is recovering from injuries in a hospital or at home. A qualified lawyer can communicate with the other insurance company and health care providers, allowing the victim to focus on getting better.
Lawyers can be very resourceful when it comes to gathering additional evidence and can take other needed steps to prove liability. They may return to an accident scene to see what can be found, or if the medical records are incomplete, they will know how to locate what is needed for the case. This can be helpful, especially if it is a large medical organization with a lot of red tape to wade through.
Hazlet Car Accident Lawyers at Mikita & Roccanova Help Victims with Car Accident Claims
Car insurance companies can try to close out a claim for less than it is worth, but you are entitled to a fair settlement. A Hazlet car accident lawyer at Mikita & Roccanova will work to prove that another driver’s negligence caused your injuries and damages. Contact us online for a free consultation about your car accident or call us at 732-705-3363. Located in Hazlet and Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Ocean County, Sussex County, and Pennsylvania.