It can happen in the blink of an eye. Do you know what to do when the worst happens and you are involved in a car accident? It’s not something that most people think about―because most people don’t think it will ever happen to them. But the statistics say otherwise. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that over 9.75 million motor vehicles accidents were reported to law enforcement in the United States. This number does not include the hundreds and maybe thousands of car accidents that were not reported to the police. Of these known car crashes, there were 21,667 fatalities and over 2 million people were injured in a car accident.
So take just a few minutes and learn about the 10 Things You Should Know BEFORE You Get in a Car Accident
- Check for injuries. This includes yourself and passengers in your car. If you feel safe doing so, check for injuries in the other vehicles(s).
- Call 911 or local Law Enforcement. If you need immediate assistance for injuries call 911 immediately. If it’s a minor traffic accident, you can call your local law enforcement.
- Move vehicles off the roadway. If you feel safe doing so, and your vehicle is still drivable, move both vehicles off onto the shoulder. If you can’t move the vehicles, take safety precautions such as turning on your emergency flashers or setting up flares (if you can safely do so.)
- Exchange insurance information. Usually the investigating officer will obtain this information as part of traffic accident report. If law enforcement does not respond (for example, during the winter when a “cold reporting” policy has been issued), exchange your name, contact information and insurance information with the other driver.
- Cooperate with the Investigating Officer. Tell your side of the story as accurately as you can recall. If you don’t know the answer or can’t remember certain details, it’s better to say you don’t know or can’t remember than to provide inaccurate information that might impact your case later. The officer may cite you, the other driver(s), all/both of you, or none of you for a traffic violation. The officer may give you a copy of the report at the scene or you may have to request it at a later date, so make sure to get the traffic report number from the officer.
- Take Pictures of the Accident. Most people have cameras readily available on their mobile phones. If you can take pictures without inferring with the police investigation, take pictures of the damage to both vehicles, the roadway where the accident occurred, debris in the road, your injuries (you can do this at the hospital), etc. If you can’t take pictures at the scene of the accident, take the pictures as soon as you are able.
- Seek Medical Attention. If your injuries are not serious enough that you required transportation to an emergency facility by ambulance, visit your family doctor or urgent care as soon as you are able, preferably the same day. Some injuries don’t seem serious at first. You may feel a little sore or you may have a slight headache that you may attribute to the trauma of the accident and think they’ll go away in a few days. If your injuries (no matter how small they may seem) still bother you a few days later, don’t wait to feel better…seek medical attention!
- Report the accident to your insurance company. You will need to inform your insurance company immediately about the accident―even if the other driver was at fault. Your insurance company will let you know what benefits are available to you. In Colorado, you may have Uninsured/Underinsured coverage and Medical Payment (MedPay) coverage available to help with the cost of your injuries. Depending on who is at-fault, they will let you know about your property damage. Your policy may also include coverage for a rental car while your car is being repaired.
- Keep track of EVERYTHING. Keep notes on conversations with the insurance companies, police officers, witnesses to the accident, etc. Also keep copies of all paperwork that you receive regarding the accident and your injuries. Include mileage, all medical reports, missed work, traffic/police reports, etc.
- Call an Attorney. Talking to an experienced personal attorney immediately after your car accident if vitally important to protect your rights. Even though the other driver may have been issued a ticket, the at-fault party’s insurance company will also investigate and issue their opinion on who caused the accident. Anything you say to other driver’s insurance company will be recorded and may be used against you to avoid paying you a fair and just settlement in the future. It is in your best interest to talk to an attorney for legal advice before answering any specific questions about the accident and your injuries. It is especially important to talk to a Colorado car accident attorney before accepting any offer from the insurance company, signing any paperwork and cashing the check.