As much as we try to avoid them, car accidents are an inevitability. Most people know they should notify their auto insurance company after an accident, but you may not be aware of some of your other potential legal obligations. Here is a quick guide to what you need to do following a car accident.
After any automobile accident the first priority is to ensure the safety of all those who were involved. Move vehicles out of traffic into a safe area on the shoulder of the road if possible, and make sure to turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers of danger.
It’s a good idea to call an ambulance and get checked by medical professionals at the scene, or at the very least, visit the ER or a doctor immediately so you have medical documentation of potential injuries.
Contact Law Enforcement
In most traffic accidents you are obligated to contact the police. Even in cases where you think you might not need to call the police, it’s a good safety net to ensure that you get proper paperwork for insurance claims, and that the other driver isn’t driving with an expired or fake insurance card or have active warrants for their arrest.
Leaving the scene of an accident before you fill out the proper police reports and exchange contact and insurance information with other drivers is against the law and can get you in hot water. If you must leave the scene for your own personal safety, drive to the nearest police station immediately and report the accident.
Exchange Insurance Information
All drivers are legally obligated to have a minimum amount of insurance coverage in case of an accident, so make a note of the other driver’s insurance information.
Sometimes the other driver will try to convince you not to file a claim or police report, instead promising to fix the damage or pay for medical expenses related to bodily injury themselves, but in many states proposing this, or agreeing to it, is against the law.
If you are not seriously injured, document anything that could be pertinent to the accident, including the make and model of vehicles involved, license plate numbers and registration information, and damage to vehicles and surrounding property. In addition, make detailed notes about the accident location, contact information for any potential witnesses, specific weather and road conditions, and traffic controls in the area, such as traffic lights and stop signs. Take photos if possible.
While you are legally obligated to cooperate with law enforcement after an accident, avoid talking to another driver’s insurance company, or signing anything that doesn’t come from law enforcement or your insurance. In addition, avoid discussing the accident with anyone except police and your insurance company until you get in touch with an attorney and discuss your case.
Get Legal Help if Needed
After the immediate steps have been taken following an accident, the next step is to contact an attorney. We can work with insurance companies to make sure you get what you deserve to cover medical bills, damage to your vehicle, and other costs of the accident.