Driving a car is probably the most dangerous thing most people do. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year in the United States, more than 30,000 people die and more than 2 million people are injured as the result of car wrecks. According to “America's Best Drivers' Report”, issued by Allstate Insurance Company, Washington D.C. has the worst drivers in the nation with a 112.15% greater-than-average accident frequency. Residents of Washington D.C. get into collisions on average once every 4.7 years. It is important to know what to do if you are involved in a car accident.
1. Be Prepared.
You should have a cell phone in your car when you drive. If there is an accident, you should call the police immediately. If your cell phone does not have a camera, you should keep a disposable camera in your car. You should also keep a pen or pencil and some paper in case you need to make notes or write down important information such as the contact information for the other driver or people who have witnessed the accident.
2. Put Safety First.
If the accident is minor and the cars drivable, move the vehicles off of the road way and out of the way of on-coming traffic. If you are seriously injured, or cannot move your vehicle, stay in your car, put on your vehicle emergency blinkers, and be sure your seat belt is engaged.
3. Call the Police.
It's best to call the police to report the accident. Many times the at-fault driver will try to persuade you to just exchange information and tell you he/she will “take care of everything” for you. Don't let this offer convince you not to call the police. It's always a good thing to have the police document the facts of the accident.
4. Exchange Information.
Be certain to get the name, address, telephone number and insurance information from the other driver. If the police do not come to document the accident, be certain to get the other driver's vehicle information, such as make, model, year and color of the car, the insurance company, the policy number and a phone number for the insurance company.
5. Document the Facts of the Accident.
Take photos of your vehicle and of the other vehicle. Document the accident scene, including the presence of traffic signals, street signs, the condition of the roadway, and any skid marks. If possible, record the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses. If you can't get this information, try to take photographs of vehicles and license plates near the accident. Your attorney can use this information to locate possible witnesses.
6. Contact An Attorney.
You should speak with an attorney before you talk with anyone else about the accident. Having an attorney on your side from the start can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING for anyone unless your attorney advises you to. DO NOT GIVE ANY STATEMENTS to anyone without first consulting your attorney. Insurance companies have adjusters trained and paid to keep the money they pay out to you as low as possible. The adjuster is usually skilled in asking certain questions that may prompt you to say something that may hurt your case. DO NOT FILL IN ANY FORMS; send all forms you receive to your attorney.
7. Talk to No One About Your Case.
Refer all persons to your attorney. This includes co-workers, family and friends. Be Careful What You Say. Do NOT ever admit fault to anyone. Many of us are trained to be polite and may be inclined to say “I'm sorry.” Do not do this. Apologizing may be taken as an admission of fault and can be used against you later. Try NOT to discuss the details of the accident with anyone until you talk with an attorney.
8. Get Medical Treatment As Soon As Possible.
Even apparently minor car crashes can cause serious injuries. It's a good idea to be checked out by a doctor immediately after an accident if you note any pain or discomfort. Documenting your injuries right after the accident is important. Certain symptoms such as radiating pain or numbness, dizziness, headache, or momentary loss of consciousness may be indications of a serious injury, so it's important that trained health care professionals document such symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment. Follow your doctor's instructions as precisely as possible. Be honest with your doctor. Do NOT exaggerate your injuries. Doing so may actually harm your case.
9. Stay in Close Contact With Your Attorney.
Keep your attorney informed of any changes in your address or telephone number. Notify your attorney immediately if you sustain another injury. Do not fill out any forms; send all forms you receive to your attorney. Forward all bills receipts and letters for your accident to your attorney. Provide your attorney with the name, address and telephone number of ALL health care providers who treat you. Keep track of any time you miss from work. Your attorney will need this information.