Understanding what you should do following a car accident can make the situation that much less stressful.
Simply put, auto accidents are stressful. Even minor crashes like "fender benders," where no one is hurt and the property damage is minimal, can still produce anxiety and stress, simply because they involve one of your biggest assets, your vehicle. When injuries are involved and the damage is more serious, the anxiety level ramps up. During times of stress, it would be easy to say or do something that could possibly jeopardize your safety or your legal rights. Having a basic plan of what you should do after a crash will help alleviate the stress of the situation and protect your interests.
First things first
Depending on the unique circumstances of the accident, the vehicles involved may be blocking traffic. If it's possible to do so, you should try to move the vehicles to the shoulder of the road to allow traffic to pass. This not only makes the whole situation safer, it makes it easier for emergency services to reach you. Sometimes this isn't possible because the vehicles are too badly damaged or there are serious injuries; if that's the case, just leave them as-is.
Even in a relatively minor accident, you should notify the police. Depending on the terms of your insurance policy, you may need to file a police report in order to start a claim, so law enforcement should be alerted. If there are injuries, you'll also need an ambulance to respond, so someone should call 911 as soon as possible.
If it's safe for you to exit your vehicle (this will depend on the location of the accident, the weather conditions, severity of injuries, the time of day and other factors), you should try to gather information from other drivers involved and from witnesses. Make sure while you are doing this that you don't make any mention of being at fault for the accident, even if you think you might be. Be polite but straightforward while you are gathering information. You'll need as much of the following information as possible:
- Names, addresses, phone numbers and driver's license numbers of other drivers and witnesses
- Insurance, plate numbers and registration information on all vehicles involved
- Witness statements
If you have a smart phone with you, you should try to take a few pictures of the accident scene and the damage to your vehicle. If you are injured and can't do this, don't worry; the police investigation will take care of this step.
Seek medical treatment
If you - or anyone else involved in the accident - is seriously injured, you should seek medical attention immediately. Prompt treatment is vital to recovery, so you shouldn't delay. Even if you don't think your injuries are severe, you should probably be checked out just to make sure you don't have internal trauma or another injury that might not show up immediately. This is often the case with soft tissue injuries and closed head injuries.
Reach out for help
As soon as you are able following an accident, you need to alert your insurance company. If another person caused the accident by texting while driving, driving drunk, speeding or reckless driving, you also want to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. In the Nashville, Tennessee, area, call Bart Durham Injury Law when you've been hurt in an accident. Call them toll free at 800-844-1712 or contact them online for a free case evaluation.