Car accidents are disruptive, distressing and dangerous. If you are involved in one, knowing what to do at the scene of the accident can help minimize the negative consequences of the wreck.
Drivers who do the following six things right after a collision tend to have a smoother time in the days and weeks following the accident.
Although this might seem too obvious to mention, it’s not. All drivers must stop after a vehicle accident, even if only one car is involved. If you keep going, you could be charged with committing a “hit and run.” Stop as close as safely possible to the place where the collision occurred.
2. Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic
If no one is hurt, move your vehicle out of the lanes of traffic if possible. Park as close to the location of the impact as you can without creating a hazard to traffic or a danger for yourself and passengers. If someone was injured, leave the vehicles where they are until emergency responders arrive. However, if leaving the cars where they are creates a dangerous situation, vehicles may need to be moved.
3. Call 911 if anyone is hurt
If anyone is hurt, call 911 immediately. Do not move anyone who cannot move themselves. Spinal and other injuries can be made much worse when a person is moved by someone other than a medical professional. When emergency responders arrive, follow their directions about moving vehicles out of the way and getting medical care or an evaluation.
When calling 911, be prepared to answer questions about the location, type of accident and possible injuries. Be prepared to provide an address or cross streets or the nearest freeway exit. You may be asked how many people at the scene need help and the type and severity of injuries. Stay on the phone until the dispatcher hangs up.
If you are in an accident on the freeway and there are no serious injuries, safely pull over to the right shoulder if possible. If you must get out of your car, exit on the right side. The California Highway Safety Patrol recommends staying inside the car if possible, with seat belts fastened. In that situation, call 911 to report the accident and get assistance.
4. Share information with other driver or law enforcement
When it is safe to do so, exchange information with the other driver or with the law enforcement officer on the scene. If you are talking with a law enforcement officer, present your driver’s license, vehicle registration document, proof of insurance or evidence of financial responsibility, and your address and contact information. If an officer is not called, share this information with the other driver. It may help to take a photo of the other driver’s license, registration and evidence of financial responsibility, but only do so with the explicit permission of the other driver.
Get the names of all drivers, passengers and pedestrians involved in the accident. If possible, get the names and contact numbers for witnesses to the accident. Record the name and badge numbers of law enforcement officers.
5. Record the accident scene and crash damage
Take photos and videos of the accident scene and the vehicles. While you should ask permission before photographing the other driver’s identification and other documents, you do not need permission to take photos of the cars and the surrounding area.
Your photos and video should capture the weather, the area around where the collision occurred, the speed of cars and the flow of traffic on the street or intersection where the crash happened. Include anything else that may be relevant to how the crash happened such as tree branches, high grass or a big truck blocking a traffic sign or driveway. Photos could also show that street lights were out or there was a hole or an uneven pavement surface. If your phone or camera can automatically include the location, date or time of the photos, turn those options on. Another way to “date stamp” the photos is to take a screen shot of your phone screen showing the date and time.
Take photos of the damage to both cars. Try to take the photos from different angles and include some point of reference in the photos that will indicate the size of any scratches and dents. For example, if you have a ruler or a coin, place that in the photo near the damage so anyone looking at it can figure out the approximate size of the damage. Even your thumb will work to provide perspective.
Take photos of damage to the surrounding area. If any fences, signs, guardrails or landscaping were damaged, get photos. A 360-degree video of the entire scene is helpful to have, even if you think there is no damage to the things around the crash site.
6. Consult with an attorney before talking with the insurance company
The time immediately after a car accident is stressful and confusing. Before you speak with insurance company representatives, you need to know your rights and their responsibilities. An experienced attorney can provide you with this information. A car crash attorney can also advise you about how to proceed.
Speaking with an experienced car accident lawyer will help you respond appropriately to the aftermath of the accident. Having skilled guidance in the hours and days following the car wreck gives you space to heal and address practical matters like what transportation you will have while your car is being repaired or replaced.
At Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel, our car accident attorneys’ first concern after a crash is the safety of everyone involved. After that, a fair and fast resolution of any needs and claims arising from the accident is our next goal. If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle collision, we can help. Contact our car accident attorneys in Redding, California, today for a free consultation.