When under pressure, you can easily forget about everything written in drivers’ manuals, including the actions a driver should take following an accident. You can do some stupid things that will result in your arrest, penalties, lawsuits, and many other troubles. To avoid such a scenario, read about the dos and don’ts after a car accident.
Don’t Flee the Scene
Some people flee accident scene just because they are shocked and can’t think clearly. Sometimes, even those drivers who are not perpetrators of the accident try to leave the scene, panicking that they will be wrongly accused. But by running, they just make themselves criminals, while if stay at the site of the accident, they can resolve the situation without any legal and financial implications.
On the other hand, there can be minor car accidents where nobody seems to get hurt and the damages done seem to be too small to waste your time and energy on proceedings. But even in this case leaving the scene is a wrong decision, since without stopping and checking you can’t be sure that nobody is REALLY injured. And even when other people weren’t involved in the accident and only somebody’s property suffered, how can you be sure there are no witnesses or cameras to identify you?
State codes clearly require drivers involved in a car accident to stop and carry out certain actions depending on whether the accident results in somebody’s injury or only in damage to somebody’s property. Each state punishes those drivers who violate the requirement regardless of whether they are responsible for the accident or not. So, in no scenario is slamming the gas pedal after a car accident a good way out.
Though your actions can vary depending on circumstances of the accident, generally you are required:
- to stop;
- to check other people involved in the accident;
- to call an ambulance if somebody got hurt and needs any medical aid;
- to call the police;
- to call your insurance provider;
- to provide your name, current residence address, the registration number of your vehicle and your driver’s license to a police officer at the scene and/or to other persons involved in the accident;
- also, you need to file a report on the accident with a local law enforcement agency.
Don’t Leave Your Vehicle on the Road
Some inexperienced drivers truly believe that if they are prohibited from driving off an accident scene, then they must leave the car on the road exactly where it ended up after the accident. But this is wrong since in this case, your car becomes an obstacle for other motorists. Moreover, when staying on the roadway, you expose your health and life to danger, and another vehicle can hit you. Even when sitting in your vehicle, you are in danger, especially in areas with heavy traffic load or on blind roads.
So, if you are not badly hurt in an accident and your car can be safely driven, you must move it away from the roadway and park it at the nearest safe location as soon as possible. You can inspect the damage done to your car, as well as you can carry out all other actions required by the law later when you are out of the traffic flow. This is not considered a hit-and-run provided you stop as close as possible to the scene and the car is moved to avoid obstructing traffic.
Don’t Touch Anything on the Scene
Yes, you can move your vehicle away, but you are not allowed to move anything else at the site of the accident. Some drivers think that they need to take away sharp or other dangerous objects from the road to clear the roadway for other motorists. In some cases, personal belongings can get out of cars during a collision, and a driver may want to gather them to prevent their being run over by other vehicles. And sure, there are drivers who would like to change the scene aiming to present the accident in a view more favorable to them.
Anyway, it is not a good idea. First, walking out into the roadway, you make yourself an easy target for other vehicles – they can hit you. For another thing, you are not a forensic technician, are you? So, it is unlikely you will be able to clean up the scene to such an extent that this will deceive professionals. It is more likely that your attempts will attract the unwanted attention of law enforcement bodies and insurance representatives, making them suspect that you are trying to conceal something, even if you don’t. Moreover, even by taking away your personal belongings you can shoot yourself in the foot – those things can serve to clarify the speed or driving direction of cars involved in the accident, so they could support your case if they were not removed.
Don’t Rely Only On Cops
You can think that the previous paragraphs imply that you should do nothing at the accident scene, except for waiting for the police, an ambulance, and an agent of your insurance company. However, this strategy is good enough only if you are injured in the accident and need to stand still for your health. In all other cases you can:
- document the accident scene taking photos with your cell phone or another camera, trying to get images from multiple angles, including detailed photos. Don’t forget to capture all damage and any injuries, as well as road markings, signs, and surroundings;
- take necessary measurements using any available measurement tool or appropriate object and documenting the measurements with the help of your camera;
- record the details of other vehicles and persons involved in the accident, including car’s make, model and tag numbers, persons’ names, dates of birth, phone numbers, residence addresses, DL numbers, insurance providers, etc.
- record the details of eyewitnesses, if any, including their names, addresses, phone numbers, as well as their brief statements. Ask the witnesses to sign their statements or record them using a voice recorder built-into your cell phone.
By taking the above steps, you can protect your interests, even if your vision of the accident conflicts with the opinion of the police or your insurance company. You will be able to apply to car accident lawyers and to maintain your rights based on the collected evidence. However, don’t forget about your own safety, when documenting the scene.
Don’t Fail to Seek Medical Aid
In each state drivers involved in a car accident are required to check if anybody is hurt and to render reasonable medical assistance to a person injured. Everything seems perfectly clear when you see a person covered in blood, unconscious or crying for help – in this case, you call 911. But there are minor car accidents, where people get just bumps and bruises with no visible signs of heavier injuries. And they can refuse any medical aid, being in shock and feeling no pain because of an adrenaline rush. However, later it can turn out that they got nastier injuries and you can be accused of failing to render medical assistance required by the law. Thus, don’t be deceived by what other people say and call an ambulance based on your common sense even if somebody got only minor visible injuries.
And it is true for you, too. Right after the accident, you can feel no pain at all, but this doesn’t mean you are not hurt. Consequences of the accident can manifest themselves later, days and even months after the crash. If you called an ambulance, let the paramedics examine you along with other victims. And anyway, visit your doctor following the accident for sound medical judgment. If some injuries and disorders are detected, and appropriate treatment is prescribed, make sure you follow doctor’s instructions and collect all papers confirming your diagnoses and medical expenses.
Don’t Fight at the Scene
Getting into a car accident is never a pleasant experience regardless of whether it is your fault or not. You are shocked, angry, nervous and even scared, and this is a good mixture of bad emotions to trigger some kind of confrontation with other people involved in the crash or with cops at the scene. But your aggressive behavior cannot help to settle the situation, and it can send you to jail, especially when it comes to confronting the police.
So, you should try and stay cool when communicating with other people involved in the car crash. Start your communication with them with asking if they are all right and offering your help. Then don’t try to blame anybody for the accident and avoid using rude words and offenses – just focus on routine things you need to do after a car crash like exchanging information about insurance providers, personal details and so on. This will distract you from the burning desire to put the blame for the accident on someone else while helping to fulfill all the actions required by law.
Don’t Admit Your Guilt
Being calm and polite doesn’t imply you should wear sackcloth and ashes, as well as admit your guilt for the accident in any form. You see, even if you THINK it is your fault, this doesn’t always mean it is REALLY your fault. You may be surprised, but even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends drivers to avoid claiming responsibility for car accidents prior to an official conclusion. And this is certainly recommended by car accident attorneys – never admit your guilt at the crash scene.
Moreover, car accident lawyers insist that you should not even apologize for the accident when speaking privately with other people involved in the crash since this can be considered as taking legal responsibility. This can expose you to a lawsuit or insurance case regardless of what the accident investigation will show. Thus, be polite, but don’t incriminate yourself – let insurance companies and law enforcement bodies sort things out.
Don’t Negotiate with Other Drivers
Like many other drivers, you can feel a temptation to settle your case without any police and insurance adjusters. No one wants to get their insurance rates increased because of a car accident, as well as nobody will be glad to add points to their driver records. So, if there is a minor accident and nobody is injured, why not to cut a deal? You can be offered a check or some cash to repair your car, if the other driver is guilty of the accident and admits guilt, or another driver can convince you to pay because the fault is yours. No records and no red tape, isn’t it lovely?
In fact, it isn’t. You cannot be sure that the other driver is honest with you, and nothing can prevent him or her from calling the police and insurance provider just as soon as you drive off the scene. Note that in many states you are required to report about car accidents to the police even if the accident results only in damages to somebody’s property. Thus, you bear legal liability for not filing an accident report with the police and this can really lead to your arrest if the authorities find out about the accident somehow. So, why risk it?
Also, even when filing the report is not required, you cannot be sure that the other driver holds a valid insurance. Do you know that in 2015 every one in eight drivers was uninsured? The other driver can present a fake or expired insurance card while persuading you to let the insurance providers handle things without reporting to the police. And what will you get in this case? How can you prove that your car was damaged in the accident without calling your insurance company or reporting to the police? Be careful, if the other party offers you any kind of negotiations that exclude the participation of independent experts.
Upon reading the article, you will be better prepared for any accidents you can face on the road. But to stand really poised for steering in the right direction, you should review what your local driver’s manual says about vehicle crashes. The more so that it is easy to do by taking our driver’s knowledge test – pass it and refresh your memory about actions required by your local legislation!