What to Do at the Scene of a Car Accident
A car accident can be a traumatic and stressful experience, and accident scenes are usually full of emotion and confusion. Navigating these complex situations can be difficult, but if you’re prepared ahead of time, you can certainly make it easier for yourself and others involved. You have responsibilities you must follow as a motorist when you’re involved in an accident, and doing them properly while following these few tips can help make the accident scene proceed smoother and give your car accident claim the best possible start.
Stay at the Scene
It’s illegal to leave the scene of an accident if you were involved in any way. Doing so is not only highly unethical, but it could lead to criminal penalties for a hit-and-run. It’s not a bad idea to pull to the side of the road, particularly if the accident occurs in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, but you should always stop and make sure everyone involved is okay. Do not leave until it’s appropriate to do so.
Check for Injuries
The first thing you should do is check for injuries and seek immediate medical attention if anyone has been harmed. This means checking with everyone in all vehicles involved and calling 911 and requesting an ambulance or paramedics to the accident scene if someone is hurt. For some injuries, the longer it takes to get treatment, the worse their condition could be, possibly even resulting in a fatality. Don’t delay; call for help immediately if anyone is injured.
Call the Police
Having law enforcement at an accident scene can help keep the peace by preventing emotions from boiling over, keeping traffic flowing around the accident so you can handle your responsibilities safely, and calling for needed services like a tow truck. The police will also file a report of the incident, which you will absolutely want to get a copy of and submit to your insurance company. This report contains statements from those involved, as well as statements from witnesses. This report will also include information on drivers involved, and other important details that will help you resolve your claims.
Talk to Witnesses
Did anyone not involved with the accident witness what happened? If so, those involved will probably like to hear their version of the story as well. Witness testimony can help fill in any gaps or missing details that might be left out from the testimony of the drivers involved. When talking to witnesses, it’s crucial to stay calm and collected—after all, they’re helping you by providing much-needed information. When you do speak with a witness, be sure to take down their information, including a name and phone number they can be reached at.
Watch What You Say
Car accident scenes are tense and emotions often run hot. In an effort to diffuse the situation and show a desire for good will and mutual respect, many people will often apologize for the incident and offer whatever they can. This may seem well-meaning, but they might be damaging their case far more than they know. Insurance companies look for any possible way to shift blame onto other parties and will often twist words into admissions of guilt, particularly apologies. It’s perfectly okay to be cordial and well-meaning at an accident scene, but do not apologize for anything, as another party’s insurance company may try to use that as an admission of guilt and hold you responsible.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, as the old adage says, then taking a bunch of snapshots at the accident scene may as well be an encyclopedia of evidence for your accident claim. Most cell phones these days have a camera in them that you can use to document things that are relevant to your case. Be sure to take pictures of the damage to your car, damage to the other cars involved, any skid marks in the street that led to the accident, your injuries, any other immediately apparent injuries, and even any traffic control devices involved, such as stop signs, traffic lights, “no-turn” signs, speed limit markers, and more. The more evidence you collect, the more likely you’ll have something to back up your claims or refute someone else’s who might be trying to lie their way out of liability.
If you have been injured in a car accident, you should also speak with a New Orleans car accident attorney and further discuss your legal options. The Chopin Law Firm, LLC can provide you with dedicated, compassionate counsel and relentless representation of your best interests through every step of your case. We can provide you with more than 50 years of legal practice experience and a track record filled with success and satisfied clients.