The question I get asked the most is “What should I do if I’m involved in a motor vehicle accident?” I get asked this so often I created a check list that I give to family and friends to keep in their vehicle emergency kit. In the heat of the moment after an accident, it’s helpful to have this check list handy. Feel free to print it out and keep it in your vehicle for future reference!
- Stay calm – Accidents happen. You can deal with this. Take a deep breath and proceed in a calm, courteous, and matter-of-fact manner.
- Turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights – If you have flares, triangles, or other warning devices, consider using them.
- Check for injuries – Consider your own pain and possible injuries, as well as your passengers’. Inquire about the people in the other car. If there is any doubt about injuries, call an ambulance. If you are hurt, cooperate with the emergency responders and focus on being treated for your injuries.
- Be polite and do not make accusations – As you make contact with the other drivers and passengers, do so politely. Do not cast blame on them or yourself.
- Call the police – The police will respond and create an accident report. Contact the police regardless of the severity of the accident.
- Get your license, registration, and proof of insurance ready—The police will need these documents. Often a driver involved in a car accident will suggest exchanging information. You should politely decline this request and explain that the police will complete an accident report with this information for each driver.
- Take photos – Get pictures with your cell phone or a camera of the cars’ positions, the damage, skid marks, broken glass, injuries, individuals involved, witnesses, etc. Gather whatever visual information is available to help explain what happened.
- Say little – Don’t make any remarks or statements about who is at fault, even to police. Answer the responding officer’s questions as accurately and concisely as you can. Respond with facts, not opinions.
- Obtain a copy of the accident report – The police officer may hand you a copy of the accident report or may tell you where to get one. A report may be available later online or at a police station.
- File an accident report with your insurance company – Also, you should notify the other driver’s insurer of the accident. However, you should not offer a recorded statement to any insurance company – even your own—without the advice of an attorney.
- Do not sign anything – If an insurance adjuster shows up at the scene, do not provide a statement and do not sign anything.
- Call a lawyer – If you’ve been injured, a skilled car accident attorney can help make sure you receive a fair settlement from the insurance company. Also, proving to another insurer that its policy holder caused the accident might require the services of an attorney.
- See your doctor – You may have injuries that you’re unaware of. If you are examined by a doctor, make sure you are specific in explaining how the accident happened and any and all injuries and problems you have suffered as a result. Follow your doctor’s instructions.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Tampa personal injury attorney Paul Rebein at 813-305-7285.