What To Do If You're In a Car Crash

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Despite significant advances in vehicle safety in recent years, car accidents are still very common. Here are a few important things to do if you're in an accident:

Stay At The Scene
If you're involved in an accident involving injury or substantial property damage, you should stay at the scene until the police tell you that you can leave. If there's any doubt at all whether there is injury or whether the damage caused by an accident is substantial, err on the side of caution; when the law requires you to wait for the police, it's considered a crime to leave the scene of an accident before they tell you that you can go.

Safeguard The Injured
If someone is injured in the accident, and you're trained in administering first aid, try to help. Don't move the injured person. Have someone call the police to report the accident. The person who contacts the police should tell them that people are injured so they know to send emergency medical personnel to the scene. If you are on the roadway, turn your flashers on or use flares to warn approaching traffic of the accident.

Obtain Information
In any accident, you should obtain the following information about:
  • The Other Driver: Name, address, driver's license number, insurance information, license plate number.

  • Witnesses: Name, address, telephone number.

  • Police Officers: Be sure to ask the police at the scene to provide you with a business card and incident number so that you can obtain an official accident report.

  • The Location: It is often advisable to take notes about where the accident occurred, the road conditions, speed limits, traffic control devices, the weather, and the lighting.

  • The Accident: It can be a good idea to take notes about how the accident occurred, such as the direction of travel of the vehicles involved in the accident, what the cars were doing at the time of the collision, and any other relevant information. It can be difficult to recall these facts after the fact.

  • Note: If litigation results from the accident, you may be required to share your notes with others involved in the lawsuit.
Do Not Admit Fault
Even if you think you might be at fault, don't admit liability. There be factors unknown to you which contributed to the crash. In some cases, these factors may mean the other driver is more to blame for the accident than you.

You should not make statements to anyone at the scene of the accident except for the police. When speaking with them, state only the facts of what happened, and let them draw their own conclusions from those facts.

Get Medical Care
In some states, where no-fault insurance law covers medical treatment made necessary by the accident, if you don't seek medical care, you may find later that you're not able to obtain "No Fault" benefits from your insurance provider. They may argue that your injuries occurred before the accident, and that they're not liable.

Similarly, if you're involved in a lawsuit with the other driver, they may claim that they're not responsible for your injuries if you don't see a doctor immediately after the accident.

Furthermore, because of the "adrenaline rush", drivers involved in accidents frequently don't feel the pain from their injuries until hours or days after the accident occurred. It can be important to get an examination from a doctor to determine if you've experienced an injury that you can't yet feel.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any loss of memory, headaches, blood or fluid in your ear, ringing in the ears, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, confusion, or any other unusual physical or mental sensations.

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